Valentine to Mary

A variant to the published poem, this poem was marked to be published in Clare's Novel, immediately following a conversation about St. Valentine between the Vicar and Mary (one of the characters in the novel).  It will of course be published in the place Clare indicated in 'Memoirs of Uncle Barnaby' scheduled for publication on the 1st March.

This visionary theme is thine
From one who loves thee still
Tis writ to thee a Valentine
But call it what you will
No more as wont thy beaming eye
To violets I compare
Nor talk about the lilys dye
To tell thee thou art fair

The time is past when hopes sweet will
First linked thy name with mine
& the fond muse with simple skill
Chose thee its Valentine
Though some may yet their powers employ
To wreath with flowers thy brow
With me thy loves a withered joy
With hope thourt nothing now

The all that youths fond spring esteems
Its blossoms pluckt in May

I hailed thee once thy praise to win
With every flower that grew
Thy bosom was the lilys skin
Thy cheek the roses hue

Nor symbols hinting fears disguise
Hope wishes to impart
No pleading hearts nor loves devise
To prove how dear thou art

Are gone like flowers in summer dreams
& thoughts of yesterday
The heavenly dreams of early love
Youths spell has broken there
& left the aching heart to prove
That earth owns nought so fair

Spring flowers were fitting hopes young songs
To grace loves earliest vow
But withered ones that autumn wrongs
Are emblems meetest now
Their perished blooms that once were green
Hopes faded tale can tell
Of shadows were a sun hath been
& suits its memory well

Then why should I on such a day
Address a song to thee
When withered hope hath died away
& love no more can be
When blinded fate that still destroys
Hath rendered all as vain
& parted from the bosom joys
Twill never meet again

The substance of our joys hath been
Their flowers have faded long
But memory keeps the shadow green
& wakes this idle song
Then let esteem a welcome prove
That cant its place resign
& friendship take the place of love
To send a valentine

Hidden Treasures

1st August 2016

My new Clare paperback "Hidden Treasures" is now are avalable from me at £6 + £1.50 postage and packing (UK). Not sure how much the postage would be to other parts of the world, but I'm sure I can let you know.  It is also available from ...

From the back-cover introduction: "John Clare was an inveterate scribbler whom, because of his poverty, was forced to write upon whatever came to hand, using ink, pencil or an ink concoction he created himself. Within the Peterborough Archives many of these scraps can be seen: newspaper and parcel labels, old bills, prospectus pages for future books, old account ledgers, as well as exercise books and loose pages ... "

The collection even contains two 'radical' poems I encountered for the first time in the Archives in late June 2016, together with poems and prose Professor Eric Robinson and I have been accumulating for some years.



"Hidden Treasures" has / have arrived ! Thank you, Roger.  I thought I'd skim it, to read properly later. But I couldn't put it down.  There are lines and images that may well be familiar.  However, I find the selection so fresh and newly thought-provoking.  So many images just brought me up short.  The shepherd boys "ankle deep in grass" who " print their wild tracks till the dews are gone".  Brilliant !  

Then, in "Solitude" ( which I read as a "walking poem"" ) there are so many wonderful observations and one made me realise again the range of John Clare's imagination.  It encompasses so much. Early on in the poem, the speaker pauses and thinks on "... nature's spells // From the silt picks out the shells ".  Is he contemplating geological age ? Mentioning shepherds, made me realise that if there is anything about modern farming that still connects with Clare's time, it is shepherding, especially at lambing time. 

Reading " Content thy home be mine" was extraordinary at this time, when we have just been reading about the execrable misuse [again] of the Honours system. Uncanny !

"I went to see her" I found unbearably beautiful. It could have been mawkish and sentimental, but it isn't; it's so honest and true.  

So much to enjoy. I hope that "Hidden Treasures" reaches a very wide readership. 

(Norman Goodman)

What a beautiful read. Thank you so much Roger for the collection of poetry and prose. I was taken to a far away land with the words of Clare - again!  

(Jacqui Cosby)

I am loving this book! Every time I open it I am enchanted by the words. Thank you for rescuing them and setting them free.
(Pat Blalock)

Thank you for the your excellent book "Hidden Treasures". Being a Clare fan ( if that's the right word!) for many years, and grew up less than 10 miles from Helpston, this a welcome addition to my Clare library. Living in South Oxfordshire and working shifts I don't get home much or attend the John Clare Festival as often as I'd like or attend John Clare Society events. I'm now more of an armchair Clare addict letting his words transport back to Clare Country that I know so well.

(Peter Bainbridge)


'In the Shadows' makes the trilogy complete.

It seems somehow to have been a long time in gestation, but in March 2015 we collected "In the Shadows" from The Fine Book Bindery who have again lovingly created them for us.  Every copy of the limited edition is handmade and hand-finished.  The cherry cover is offset by a grey spine with a gilt title.  This is the third volume in our trilogy.

The three books taken together explore the sensuous nature of Clare's early (pre 1820 poetry in the main) from his own verse and prose.

Book One - The Lovers Meeting - (from 1818) is a reworking by Clare of Ovid's first century erotic poem.   It seems to us very much with Patty in mind. 

Book Two - The Poet in Love - is the very real story of Clare's meeting, courtship of Patty Turner, and then her subsequent pregnancy and their marriage in 1820.

Book Three - In the Shadows - is the story of Clare's largely illusory relationship with Mary Joyce ranging over his whole life.

Both 'Poet' 'and "Shadows' contain newly discovered Clare works and little known poems rejected by his publishers.

The reviews of the books were wonderful, here is Ronnie Blythe :

"I read, and re-read 'The Poet in Love'... it is a delight; beautifully presented and even revolutionary in its demand that we should look at Clare 'passionately and practically'. You have re-instated Patty... and you have dethroned Mary Joyce. The book makes us look at Clare in a fresh way, and this is no easy matter considering the stream of Clare criticism. Anne Lee's illustrations are fascinating - a kind of poetry in themselves."

"So beautiful, such treasures for my John Clare bookcase. They should lie on a table where everyone can see them, pick them up and delight in them. The end-papers themselves are a treat... they really are very beautiful." (Of 'The Poet in Love' and 'The Lovers Meeting)

And from Professor Eric Robinson on 'The Poet in Love': "No one can read this book without learning much of Clare's courtship of Patty during these formative years. It is a very strange story, but it reveals much of the essential character of a poet who had at last been recognised as a very great writer. Roger Rowe and Anne Lee have made an important contribution to Clare studies. And I am pleased to know that more is yet to come from their joint efforts."

Other reviews can be found on our 'reviews' page.

Each book is signed and numbered and is available from me.  Simply send me a message me via my own or the John Clare Poet facebook page, and I will get back to you.

Each book measures 11" x 8"


"The Lovers Meeting' is £30 

"The Poet in Love" is £35 

"In the Shadows" is £35 

Reductions for multi-copies:

(TLM & TPIL) - £60

(TLM & ITS) - £60

(TPIL & ITS) - £65

or for all three - £90


The launch of 'The Lovers Meeting'

The video that was made by the Peterborough Telegraph on the launch of "The Lovers Meeting". Three and a half minutes where Anne and I introduce the book. Still available from me at £35. We have yet to have anything but good reviews, some embarrassingly ecstatic - click on our 'Reviews' page on the right-hand side of this page.

Click here to view :

To witness the process of how a book produced by The Fine Book Bindery is made, you can view a recent slideshow on their website.  Our first three books -- "The Lovers Meeting" - "The Poet in Love"  - "In the Shadows" -- have and will be made in exactly this fashion, but we have chosen not have edge guilding, case-making or vellum with our books (I wish!).  It's a wonder to behold to see such skilled craftsmen and women creating a work of art!

The first eight lines of 'The Lovers Meeting'

               [Clare's original manuscript from 1818]

                       Hot was the noon in summers sultry hour
                       The sun then raging with meridian power
                       When I more burning with the scorching heat
                       Of hot desire — lay hid in close retreat
                       Beneath the covert of a secret shade
                       Flush'd “with expectance of the lovley maid”
                       Sweet was the spot no one throughout the grove
                       Was better suited to the sports of Love

                  [Alongside these words, Clare has written in pencil 'Old']

Why are we 'ArbouR EditionS'?

[Anne's photo was taken in Holme Fen in late summer 2013]

To the wild wood shielded sweet
Where the branches branches meet
Verdant on the morning sceen
Oer the carpets spreading green
& the holly branches spread
Spreads an arbour oer my head
As the woodland paths divide
Sweet to put the boughs aside

(from "Just as mornings rosy lass")