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John Clare

(13 July 1793 – 20 May 1864 / Northamptonshire / England)

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First Love


I ne'er was struck before that hour
With love so sudden and so sweet,
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
And stole my heart away complete.
My face turned pale as deadly pale.
My legs refused to walk away,
And when she looked, what could I ail?
My life and all seemed turned to clay.

And then my blood rushed to my face
And took my eyesight quite away,
The trees and bushes round the place
Seemed midnight at noonday.
I could not see a single thing,
Words from my eyes did start --
They spoke as chords do from the string,
And blood burnt round my heart.

Are flowers the winter's choice?
Is love's bed always snow?
She seemed to hear my silent voice,
Not love's appeals to know.
I never saw so sweet a face
As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling-place
And can return no more

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Bronze Star - 6,774 Points * Sunprincess * (6/18/2014 12:38:00 PM)

    ..............this is a beautiful poem of first love....and the writing style reminds me of my favourite poets...
    ....................................~~~~~~~~~~ love love love ~~~~~~~~~~~~~....................................... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (6/15/2012 8:19:00 PM)

    I read all of Clare's poetry recently and it amazed me with its purity of expression. Take any genius and strip away his or her education and you will find Clare. He is the equal of Keats or Shelley. Indeed he is nearer the fount of poetry than they. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Thomas Miller (6/15/2012 11:50:00 AM)

    Because this John Clare poem reflects my own life experience to a degree, I find it quite touchingly sentimental. Moving one's memory in an enjoyable reverie! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kristi Berg (5/14/2012 11:44:00 AM)

    Some guy in an online poker room urged me to read this poem-a 15 year old no less! -and I too have become wooed by it. As is mentioned above, the flow distracts me but I can see what Clare sees and that is beautiful. Haven...your interpretation was fantastic as well and helped me to better understand what Clare was saying so long ago. Thank you for sharing! ! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie R.k. Sharma (1/20/2012 8:11:00 AM)

    I read the poem twelve years back but its last two lines are still echoing in my heart. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (6/15/2010 7:15:00 AM)

    Joseph - compare Yeats:

    First Love

    THOUGH nurtured like the sailing moon
    In beauty's murderous brood,
    She walked awhile and blushed awhile
    And on my pathway stood
    Until I thought her body bore
    A heart of flesh and blood.
    But since I laid a hand thereon
    And found a heart of stone
    I have attempted many things
    And not a thing is done,
    For every hand is lunatic
    That travels on the moon.
    She smiled and that transfigured me
    And left me but a lout,
    Maundering here, and maundering there,
    Emptier of thought
    Than the heavenly circuit of its stars
    When the moon sails out.

    One difference is that the technique and the thought/feeling are not out of sync in Yeats' poem. You have to realise that a poem may be flawed technically, and those flaws subtract from its intention. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (6/15/2010 5:34:00 AM)

    This is not the best of Clare – there is a fair amount of “fiddling the books” to achieve scansion and rhyme: “her face it bloomed”, “stole my heart away complete”, pale as deadly pale”. “eyesight quite away” – take away the underlined words and you have a more vigorous poetry - but the last verse is free of these – one feels the poetic passion more aroused – you then begin to believe more in the poem.

    You could almost do without the first two verses, though “And when she looked, what could I ail? /My life and all seemed turned to clay.” is good – though “were” instead of “seemed” would be allowable.

    Also: “sweet” in each of the first two lines” is too sweet! And how, in fact, did his beloved’s face “bloom”?

    The poem creaks a little in pursuit of its form, and thus suspends the reader between belief and disbelief in the narrative.

    The full stop at the end of the fifth line is wrong. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 147 Points Manonton Dalan (6/15/2010 4:36:00 AM)

    haven if i haven't read john's poem first i wouldn't know that is base
    from somebody's poem...i tell you what yours is an expression of somebody
    who truly experienced it... i admire you for that...inovation ha! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Rik Speybrouck (6/15/2010 4:32:00 AM)

    Anyone an idea what means ' as chords do from string. I live in Belgium and so my motherlanguage is dutch. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 294 Points Ramesh T A (6/15/2010 2:19:00 AM)

    The first effect of sudden love sweet and beautiful is well depicted in this poem! Nice indeed to read! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Haven Leonel (6/26/2009 4:36:00 PM)

    i have written a poem that mixes this poem with a more modern vocabulary, yet the problem is that it no longer has that old fashion romance to it which is very effective in poems.

    'This all happened within an hour,
    and flowed with love so sweet.
    Her face bloomed like a sweet flower,
    which stole my heart away complete.

    Yet my face turned pale, a lifeless pale,
    my legs refused to walk away.
    This girl was like a fairy tale,
    I cant describe her any other way.

    But then my blood rushed to my face,
    and stripped my sight from my eyes.
    Yet the pain and suffering in this place,
    had started to slowly die.

    I could not see a single thing,
    but at this time so much did start.
    My mind became as thin as string,
    that was wrapped around my heart.

    Could I be this girl's choice?
    Could I make her mine?
    Then as I heard her voice,
    I saw her smile shine.

    I've never seen such a pretty face,
    its a face so rich, not poor.
    My heart has left its dwelling place,
    and can return no more.'

    i know most poets would speak down to me and tell me not to steal other poems and try to make them my own, but i did not steal it i dont take credit for this poem, i just mixed it with my personality..so tell me what you think (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Krystal Vincent (6/15/2009 10:43:00 AM)

    I loved this poem. It reminds me a lot about someone i fell in love with a long time ago and still am in love with today. you have such good technique. a poem well written.
    I would like to give you a hug right about now.you have a beautiful heart for a man, and i haven't found that in many. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Janet Hedger (6/15/2008 4:08:00 AM)

    I first came across John Clare through a literary group I belonged to. He is now a favourite of mine - an uneducated man writing beautiful, from the heart poetry. After his first book was published, he was plagued by rejection - so it was not only in love, he was spurned. All his feelings pour out of this poem - never afraid to bare his soul - yet it remains a poem of beauty. John Clare was a misunderstood man - poetry was his escape. (Report) Reply

Read all 26 comments »

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