David Rowe

American based English writer and musician David Rowe has set around a dozen of Clare's poems.  Here are three that are directly pertinent to Clare's state of mind both in late 1841 and later in his decades long incarceration.  From High Beech to Northampton General Asylum.

Three Springs
O Mary dear, three Springs have been
Three Summers too have blossomed here
Three blasting Winters crept between
Though absence is the most severe
Another Summer blooms in green
But Mary never once was seen

The most crucial poem of 1841 in Clare’s descent into confusion.  It is the autumn, and he is back in Northborough, just up the road from Glinton.  He has seen the blackened lintel of Mary Joyce’s home, and heard the stories of her death 3 years before in a house fire.  Here he seems to admit to himself that all is lost.  Pure pain.

Love is past
Love is past and all the rest
Thereto belonging fled away
The most esteemed and valued best
Are faded all and gone away
How beautiful was Mary's dress
While dancing at the meadow ball
—'Tis twenty years or more at least
Since Mary seemed the first of all

It is November 1848, and John Clare has been in Northampton Asylum for very nearly 7 years.  Yet even after such a long period of separation, his fertile mind is still in Helpston and Glinton and his lost love, Mary Joyce.

Remember, Dear Mary
Remember, dear Mary, love cannot deceive
Loves truth cannot vary, dear Mary, believe.
You may hear and believe it, believe it and hear --
Love could not deceive it those features so dear

Clare still in Northampton Asylum later in life.  Preoccupied, as he was all his life, with theological musings, here he speaks of ‘the fall’ in a lovely poem about belief and love.  It turns into a celebration of Clare’s love for his Mary, all those years before.