Posted in: John Clare, nature poem, spiritual poems

John Clare and the ladybug

English poet John Clare epitomizes for me something I’m often reaching for in my writing and occasionally dazzling into, in still and open moments. This poem, featured on Poetry Daily, amazes me, first into silence and then into writing.

The meaning of “clock a clay,” as poet Susan Stewart tells us (she selected the poem for PD) comes from a rural Northhamptonshire belief. The idea is that you can tell time by counting the number of taps on the ground it takes to make a ladybug fly away. So the poem is in the voice of the ladybug, a vantage point I have visited on a summer day. I hope it amazes you into a summer’s day of writing.

Clock A Clay
by John Clare (1793-1864)

In the cowslips peeps I lye
Hidden from the buzzing fly
While green grass beneath me lies
Pearled wi’ dew like fishes eyes
Here I lye a Clock a clay
Waiting for the time o’day

While grassy forests quake surprise
And the wild wind sobs and sighs
My gold home rocks as like to fall
On its pillars green and tall
When the pattering rain drives bye
Clock a Clay keeps warm and dry

Day by day and night by night
All the week I hide from sight
In the cowslips peeps I lye
In rain and dew still warm and dry
Day and night and night and day
Red black spotted clock a clay

My home it shakes in wind and showers
Pale green pillar top’t wi’ flowers
Bending at the wild wind’s breath
Till I touch the grass beneath
Here still I live lone clock a clay
Watching for the time of day