John Clare: Maid of the Wilderness

František Kupka - Girl shading her eyes (c.1908) - J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

František Kupka – Girl shading her eyes (c.1908) – J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

I give here yet another love poem by John Clare from Asylum Poems, the fascinating collection of verses that he composed when he was interned in an insane asylum because of his schizophrenic hallucinations. Contrasting with his numerous sentimental poems, this piece is sensuous and wild; behind poetic images—and a silence—hides the poet’s fullness of heat and passion.

Maid of the Wilderness

Maid of the wilderness,
Sweet in thy rural dress,
Fond thy rich lips I press
rose  rose  rose  Under this tree.

Morning her health bestows,
Sprinkles dews on the rose,
That by the bramble grows:
rose  rose  rose  Maid happy be.
Womanhood round thee glows,
rose  rose  rose  Wander with me.

The restharrow blooming,
The sun just a-coming,
Grass and bushes illuming,
rose  rose  rose  And the spreading oak tree;

Come hither, sweet Nelly,
  *      *      *      *
The morning is loosing
rose  rose  rose  Its incense for thee.
The pea-leaf has dews on;
rose  rose  rose  Love wander with me.

We’ll walk by the river,
And love more than ever;
There’s nought shall dissever
rose  rose  rose  My fondness from thee.

Soft ripples the water,
Flags rustle like laughter,
And fish follow after;
rose  rose  rose  Leaves drop from the tree.
Nelly, Beauty’s own daughter,
rose  rose  rose  Love, wander with me.

Source: Life and Remains of John Clare, The “Northamptonshire Peasant Poet” by John Clare, copied from the Project Gutenberg ebook, with indentation adapted to follow the digitization of the original on Internet Archive.

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