New Year’s Eve 2013

The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a time of hope and a time of regret. Nothing that has passed can be relived or regained, and yet the days renew themselves with the elusive prospect of change.

John-Clare(Grimshaw-1844)The English poet John Clare (1793-1864) was born into a peasant family in Helpston, formerly in the county of Northamptonshire and today in Cambridgeshire.

The son of illiterate parents, Clare received some formal schooling and in 1820 published his first collection of poetry. Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery was an immediate success and Clare became known as the “peasant poet”. Unfortunately, his subsequent collections The Village Minstrel (1821), The Shepherd’s Calendar (1827) and The Rural Muse (1835) sold badly and Clare spent the rest of his life in literary obscurity.

In 1841, after beginning to suffer from delusions, Clare was admitted to the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum where he spent the last 20 years of his life. The following poem is called “The Old Year”.

“The Old Year’s gone away
To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
Nor hear him in the night:
He left no footstep, mark or place
In either shade or sun:
The last year he’d a neighbour’s face,
In this he’s known as none.
All nothing everywhere:
Mists we on mornings see
Have more substance when they’re here
And more of form than he.
He was a friend by every fire,
In every cot and hall –
A guest to every heart’s desire,
And now he’s nought at all.

Old papers thrown away,
Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
All things identified;
But times once torn away
No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year’s Day
Left the Old Year lost to all.”


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