Michael Haslam reads four stanzas from "Child Harold" by John Clare

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In this installment, Michael Haslam reads four stanzas from “Child Harold” by John Clare. Haslman (b. Bolton, Lancashire, U.K., 1947) has lived at Foster Clough, on the Pennine moor-edge above Hebden Bridge, in the Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire, since 1970, writing, loving and labouring in the immediate vicinity. Publications include Continual Song (Open Township 1986), A Whole Bauble: Collected Poems 1977-94 (Carcanet 1995), The Music Laid her Songs in Language (Arc 2001), and A Sinner Saved by Grace (Arc 2005).

John Clare, Four Stanzas from "Child Harold"

My life hath been one love — no blot it out
My life hath been one chain of contradictions —
Madhouses Prisons wh-re shops — never doubt
But that my life hath had some strong convictions
That such was wrong — religion makes restrictions
I would have followed — but life turned a bubble
& clumb the giant stile of maledictions
They took me from my wife & to save trouble
I wed again & made the error double

Yet abscence claims them both & keeps them too
& locks me in a shop in spite of law
Among a low lived set & crew
Here let the Muse oblivions curtain draw
& let man think — for God hath often saw
Things here too dirty for the light of day
For in a madhouse there exists no law —
Now stagnant grows my too refined clay
I envy birds their wings to flye away

How servile is the task to please alone
Through beauty woo & love inspire the song
Mere painted beauty with her heart of stone
Thinks the world worships while she flaunts along
The flower of sunshine butterflye of song
Give me the truth of heart in womans life
The love to cherish one — & do no wrong
To none — O peace of every care & strife
Is true love in an estimable wife

How beautiful this hill of fern swells on
So beautiful the chappel peeps between
The hornbeams — with its simple bell — Alone
I wander here hid in a palace green
Mary is abscent — but the forest queen
Nature is with me — morning noon & gloaming
I write my poems in these paths unseen
& when among these brakes & beeches roaming
I sigh for truth & home & love & woman

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