John Clare (1793-1864) was born in Helpston, Northamptonshire, the son of a semi-literate labourer. Clare himself later worked in various manual country trades. But he never recovered from an unhappy love affair with a local farmer's daughter called Mary Joyce. In 1820 he left the countryside for London where several volumes of his poetry were published. Here he unfortunately he suffered severe bouts of melancholy and depression. This led to his admission to an asylum in Epping in 1837. He escaped in 1841 and walked all the way back to Northamptonshire under the delusion that he was married to Mary and was returning home to be reunited with her. Actually she had died, unmarried, a few years previously. He was again taken away, this time to an asylum in Northampton, where he died in 1864.
The Crab Tree
Spring comes anew and brings each little pledge
That still as wont my childish heart deceives
I stoop again for violets in the hedge
Among the ivy and old withered leaves
And often mark amid the clumps of sedge
The pooty [snail] shells I gathered when a boy
But cares have claimed me many an evil day
And chilled the relish that I had for joy
Yet when crab blossoms blush among the may
As wont in years gone by I scramble now
Up mid the bramble for my old esteems
Filling my hands with many a blooming bough
Till the heart-stirring past as present seems
Save the bright sunshine of those fairy dreams...
From The Crab Tree by John Clare. The crab apple tree in our own garden is now displaying its reddish-pink blossom (see photo).