John Lincoln


I have symbolised Clare’s spirit as a white bird free to fly where it chooses, away from the “lust of earth below” towards “the glow of heaven’s flame” and all within Hilly Wood that he knew well and visited often.


From my reading of Clare’s poetry and prose I believe he identified himself closely with the land and everything in it. This is vividly – even viscerally - demonstrated in his poem The Lament of Swordy Well, which contains these four lines –

“Im swordy well a piece of land 

Thats fell upon the town 

Who worked me till I couldnt stand 

And crush me now Im down”

Clare writes the poem in the first person and it is that which persuaded me to emphasise this very personal identification by picturing the quarry as a piece of meat that has been butchered for sale. It is gruesome, I admit but does emphasise Clare’s personal relationship with the environment around Helpston and is what I tried to get across as a visual metaphor for Clare’s feelings about this gouging out of the earth’s body – his body - in the landscape.


From – ‘A Lare at Noon’

“& on snug thickets sward at ease
Oerhung wi many a bough
Of hazel bush & oaken trees
I’ve lain me down as now
While swimming in my half closd eye
The summers joys would seem
To pass and pass unceasing bye

Like pictures in a dream”


From – ‘Natural History Letter IX, March 25th 1825’

In this letter to James Hessey, John Clare made reference to what he called the ‘blue anemonie’.  He wrote – ““….you have often wished for a blue Anemonie the Anemonie pulsitilis of botanists & can now send you some for I have found some in flower today which is very early but it is a very early spring the heathen mythology is fond of indul[g]ing in the metramorp[h]ing in the memory of lovers and heroes into the births of flowers I could almost fancy that this blue anemonie sprang from the blood or dust of the romans for it haunts the Roman bank in this neighbourhood…”


From – ‘The Flitting’

“- the very crow

Croaks music in my native field”


From ‘Natural History Letter X’ 

“I usd to creep among the blackthorn thickets & down the hedge sides on my hands and knees….. As soon as the sun lookd warm on the hedges & banks & wakend the daisey to open its golden eye; & the arums to throw up its fine green leaves…”

'John Clare's places'. Oil on canvas - triptych. 
In 1993 I curated an exhibition of paintings in the Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery to commemorate the bi-centenary of John Clare's birth. I also painted this triptych for the show. It depicts - in the left supporter an ivy covered oak tree growing alongside the Helpston - Maxey Road. A track Clare took frequently on his trips to the Maxey Mill for his mother when fetching flour. The right supporter depicts an old willow growing alongside the River Gwash, near to where Clare courted his 'Patty' and the centre shows the largest of the Lolham Bridges upon which he stood with his publisher John Taylor, the only time Taylor visited Clare in Helpston.