A poem for Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South America today…


A poet for troubled times…

It’s been a grim week with grim news every day – we can’t see the end of it too soon.  So let us finish off the week on a better note – here’s John Clare‘s “Autumn,” read by Richard Burton (with a hat tip to Morgan Meis of 3quarksdaily for bringing it to our attention).   It’s a dandy poem, one of the group written while Clare was confined in the Northampton County Asylum from 1842 until his death in 1864 … well, Clare had a few troubled times of his own. Biographer Jonathan Bate wrote that Clare was “the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self.”

As for Burton’s reading, this is the way a poem should be read – listen to the short clip, and see if you agree.  Patrick Stewart is also a wonderful performer – you can compare Stewart’s reading to Burton’s, and see some of the the working-class poet’s Northamptonshire home.  Only … it’s not the same poem.  “Autumn” and “To Autumn” are two different poems.  Both are splendid, and well worth a few minutes of your time.

I know what you’re thinking…  It’s May.  It’s springtime.  Yes, but not for the Book Haven’s southern hemisphere readers.  They’re deep into autumn on that side of the equator.

So to those of you in Christchurch, Buenos Aires, Cuzco, Johannesburg, Melbourne, and elsewhere today:

The thistledown’s flying, though the winds are all still,
On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,
The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;
Through stones past the counting it bubbles red-hot.

The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,
The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.
The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,
And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.

Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we’re eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.

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One Response to “A poem for Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South America today…”

  1. Mike Says:

    Great post! This is the stuff that I live for reading. Thanks for sharing!