Monday, July 13, 2009

JOHN CLARE b. JULY 13th 1793

"It is possible that finally, like coming to the end of a long,
barely perceptible rise, there is mutual cohesion and interaction. The
whole scene is fixed in your mind, the music all present, as though you
could see each note as well as hear it. I say this because there is an
uneasiness in things just now. Waiting for something to be over before
you are forced to notice it. The pollarded trees scarcely bucking the
wind--and yet it's keen, it makes you fall over. Clabbered sky.
Seasons that pass with a rush. After all it's their time
too--nothing says they aren't to make something of it. As for Jenny
Wren, she cares, hopping about on her little twig like she was tryin'
to tell us somethin', but that's just it, she couldn't
even if she wanted to--dumb bird. But the others--and they in some way
must know too--it would never occur to them to want to, even if they
could take the first step of the terrible journey toward feeling
somebody should act, that ends in utter confusion and hopelessness, east
of the sun and west of the moon. So their comment is: "No comment."
Meanwhile the whole history of probabilities is coming to life, starting
in the upper left-hand corner, like a sail."
from "for john clare" john ashbery

here's a guy for you. the myth of the poet & all that. lived at the end of the 1700s in the country. nearly illiterate but caught someone's eye w/his simple, almost crude poems about the countryside in plain common speech. fell out of favor w/the critics & fell into drinking & craziness. he was torn between his drinking buddies in the country & the literary life of london. guess who won out? or maybe not because he ended up in the lunatic asylum & died there. the list goes on & on...

his poetry went through one of those ridiculous "re-evaluations" in the 20th century & he was found worthy of canonization. a little too late, it seems to me. one of his most famous poems, written in the asylum:

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
And e'en the dearest--that I loved the best--
Are strange--nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil'd or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below--above the vaulted sky.

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