John Clare


'A Poet Is Born Not Made'


John Clare is buried in St. Botolph's churchyard, Helpston, Cambridgeshire, England.

In 1820, at the age of 26, Clare's first collection of poetry Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery was published by John Taylor a London bookseller. It was an immediate success and Clare became known as the 'peasant poet'. However, his subsequent collections The Village Minstrel (1821), The Shepherd's Calendar (1827) and The Rural Muse (1835) sold badly and Clare spent the rest of his life in literary obscurity.

In 1837 Clare was admitted to an asylum in Epping, Essex. However, in 1841 he escaped and walked all the way back to Northborough in the hope that he would be reunited with his childhood sweetheart Mary Joyce. Shortly after he was transferred to Northampton General Lunatic Asylum - an institution where he was to spend the last 23 years of his life. Clare continued to write poetry until the end of his life. While in Northampton Asylum he wrote the famous, desolate affirmation I Am.

Of all the great poets, Clare was perhaps the least well educated and never mastered the art of punctuation. Nevertheless, he managed to write some of the finest nature poems in the English language.

Clare died on 20th May 1864 in Northampton Asylum but in accordance with his wishes he was buried at Helpston - the village where he had been born.

Edmund Blunden and C. Day-Lewis were both admirers of Clare and did much to raise the profile of his work during the 20th century.

In 1989 Clare was honoured with a plaque in 'Poets' Corner', Westminster Abbey. There is also a memorial to him in the village of Helpston.

See nature poets.

Grave of John Clare 
Photograph by Cameron Self

Photograph by Cameron Self

John Clare



John Clare Memorial
Photograph by Jan Fuller

I long for scenes where man hath never trod
  A place where woman never smiled 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.

From I am (complete poem)

Read more of Clare's poetry

The John Clare Society






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