BARS Blog

BARS Blog

News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Posts filed under Poetry

The Meeting: Reading and Writing through John Clare

As part of an Arts Council England- & John Clare Society-funded outreach and inclusion project, Simon Kövesi has edited a short collection of readings of John Clare poems and prose by celebrated actor Toby Jones, now online at Oxford Brookes University. The readings are available via standard browsers, and via Spotify and iTunes as free podcast-style subscriptions. Reading texts are also provided on the project website. The hope is that Toby’s readings will support the study and enjoyment of Clare, at any level of interest.

Toby will perform as Clare, in the project’s final musical stage show, in Oxford in February, and in London in April, by way of celebrating 200 years since the publication of Clare’s first collection, Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery. More details soon.

Project website: https://www.brookes.ac.uk/the-meeting/

Toby Jones readings: https://www.brookes.ac.uk/the-meeting/toby-jones-reads-john-clare/

Limbo…

The sole true Something—This! In Limbo’s Den
It frightens Ghosts, as here Ghosts frighten men.
Thence crossed unseized—and shall some fated hour
Be pulverised by Demogorgon’s power
And given as poison to annihilate souls—
Even now it shrinks them—they shrink in as Moles
(Nature’s mute monks, live mandrakes of the ground)
Creep back from Light—then listen for its sound;—
See but to dread, and dread they know not why—
The natural alien of their negative eye.

’Tis a strange place, this Limbo!—not a Place,
Yet name it so;—where Time and weary Space
Fettered from flight, with night-mare sense of fleeing,
Strive for their last crepuscular half-being;—
Lank Space, and scytheless Time with branny hands
Barren and soundless as the measuring sands,
Not marked by flit of Shades,—unmeaning they
As moonlight on the dial of the day!
But that is lovely—looks like Human Time,—
An Old Man with a steady look sublime,
That stops his earthly task to watch the skies;
But he is blind—a Statue hath such eyes;—
Yet having moonward turned his face by chance,
Gazes the orb with moon-like countenance,
With scant white hairs, with foretop bald and high,
He gazes still,—his eyeless face all eye;—
As ’twere an organ full of silent sight,
His whole face seemeth to rejoice in light!
Lip touching lip, all moveless, bust and limb—
He seems to gaze at that which seems to gaze on him!
No such sweet sights doth Limbo den immure,
Walled round, and made a spirit-jail secure,
By the mere horror of blank Naught-at-all,
Whose circumambience doth these ghosts enthral.
A lurid thought is growthless, dull Privation,
Yet that is but a Purgatory curse;
Hell knows a fear far worse,
A fear—a future state;—’tis positive Negation!

STC