Fighting the Biography of John Clare – a poem by John Gallas

John Gallas

Fighting the Biography of John Clare

How dull and vexing is it, that each man,
though free to plough, still turns the self-same ditch.
I looked for more. At Helpstone yesterday,
I threw myself onto a stubbled field
with half an apple and the Book of Clare
to read a store of Verslings with the bees,
the careless mouse, the brook, the flibbling trees,
the hedgehog and the lark, the nimbling hare
and all the bosky fronds and friends revealed
by half a sun in wigs of clouds. The hay
stood stacked in stooks, and down the half-flowered twitch
the planted pylons strod. So I began.

Begin in gladness.
Pass to madness.
End in sadness.

Did I expect some other life, to lead
my troubled share about another earth?
Some root-and-branch re-making of our years?
It rained: I stayed. The rawky pages blopped
with disappointed summer, and the wind

disturbed to little frenzies all the tops
of witchen, whin and woodbine, and the copse,
with dark green mouth agapen, ducked and dinned
upon its cracking brig. Enough. I dropped
my core into a thurrow. Word and rhyme,
leaf and line have had their pennyworth,
and common died amongst the common weed.

Begin in gladness.
Pass to madness.
End in sadness.

‘Fighting the Biography of John Clare’ by John Gallas was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2016) judged by Terry Jones.