On the Unveiling of a Memorial to John Clare, in Poet's Corner by Edward Storey

On the Unveiling of a Memorial to John Clare, in Poet's Corner

You were there again,
no longer the shy ploughboy
wondering how you had escaped
from the fields of Northamptonshire,
but as an equal with those men
who had bewen treated better by posterity --
Wordsworth, Byron, Keats and Tennyson.

You wondered then
what strange soul could have jumped
into your skin while you
lolled in a coach going to London,
your neighbours furrow-cramped
in fields where you first plucked
those words now separating you from them.

And there you were today,
your name engraved on stone
where all the world comes to respect
a nation's poets - Chaucer,
Milton, Blake, and those
who were to follow your brief fame --
Hopkins, Hardy, and T.S. Eliot.

For those of us who stood
where you once gazed in wonder
(and, who knows - hope?)
there was a shudder in the air
as if you spoke to us through voices
you had borrowed for the day,
your words still fresh as morning grass.

But, out of all the praise --
the ceremonial touching of our caps --
what pleased you most? Perhaps
the children from your village
who brought wildflowers and stood
in smiling homage, for they
were what you always sought --

a glimpse of Adam still in paradise.

Edward Storey
The John Clare Society Journal
(Number 9 - July 1990)

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