Thursday, June 16, 2011

June Differences (John Clare; Charlotte Mew)

I.  John Clare
From Summer Images*

I love at early morn from the new mown swath
To see the startled frog his rout pursue
And mark while leaping oer the dripping path
         His bright sides scatter dew
And early Lark that from its bustle flyes --
          To hail his mattin new
          And watch him to the skyes

II.  Charlotte Mew
June 1915**

Who thinks of June's first rose to-day?
Only some child, perhaps, with shining eyes and rough bright hair will
               reach it down
In a green sunny lane, to us almost as far away
       As are the fearless stars from these veiled lamps of town.
       What's little June to a great broken world with eyes gone dim
       From too much looking on the face of grief, the face of dread?
               Or what's the broken world to June and him
Of the small eager hand, the shining eyes, the rough bright head?

*Composed 1824-32; First published 1835
** From The Rambling Sailor, 1929
Lower photograph taken near Hooge, Belgium, 6 a.m., June 16, 1915.  First attack on Bellewaarde Farm by the Liverpool Scottish, 6 am, 16 June 1915.  Photo by Private F.A. Fyfe, 'Z' Company, 1/10th King's (Liverpool) Regiment (Liverpool Scottish). Imperial War Museum catalogue number Q 49751.


  1. Curtis, two great poems, almost a hundred years apart, from "troubled" poets who for all their troubles seem to know and be able to convey more of human experience than most in the seemingly endless queue of soi-disant poets since...

    Clare's dripping path, with its immediate ecstatic sensing of the natural in all its freshness and reality (one recalls his implied questioning of Keats's hand-me-down mythological schoolbook approach to nature in Endymion, where, as he pointed out with some polite suppressed amusement, every brook seemed to be accompanied by its fanciful fictive Naiad or nymph).

    And poor Charlotte, with her shocked vision of a great broken world... one is unable to forget how terribly the breakage seems to have been for her. It is difficult to imagine a worse ending than drinking bleach.

  2. Yes -- these both really drew me to them and in. Since commencing mowing our lawn a couple of years ago (as early as I can manage it, before it gets too hot, without being inconsiderate to the neighbors), the phrase "new mown swath" has had a special meaning for me. All sorts of wildlife is stirring, including our new beaver who is really something. I cannot imagine a worse ending than drinking bleach, a chemical whose power never fails to shock the senses. I was also shocked (and a little awed) to discover that the battle photo of Hooge in 1915 was taken on June 16, the day I was composing this post. Life throws you some surprises. I owe Clare and Mew to you, for which I'm grateful. Curtis