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Featured Poem: Love and Solitude by John Clare

Written by Rachael Norris, 29th April 2019

The Reader's Learning and Quality Leader, Amanda Boston, shares her thoughts on this week's Featured Poem, Love and Solitude by John Clare.

“I need to hear this again.” Everyone in my reading group nodded in agreement, some people leaned forward and I could sense the connection which this Clare poem had already made. “ I love the last two lines. We all need a quiet place. What’s a kingcup?  What does troublous mean?” The responses and questions came unprompted after the second reading. Some of the responses had been in my head when I first read the poem, alone, at home others made me think again…

I hate the very noise of troublous man
Who did and does me all the harm he can.

Settling on the opening two lines we thought about the difference between troubled and troublesome. Most of us thought we had been both at some point in our lives and that we had listened to the anxieties of a troubled person. Thinking about all the harm and what that might feel like led us to consider the pain suffered by people who are perhaps alone or made separate from life for some reason. The intensity of feeling suggested by I hate the very noise felt like an electric charge in the room. It’s tricky to decide where to put the emphasis when reading these lines. We experimented with a couple of different ways.

“I was a prisoner in my own head” is how someone described an extended stay in an isolation ward in hospital; allowed no visitors a friend would flash car headlights at the hospital window every evening.

Where kingcups grow most beauteous to behold
And shut up green and open into gold.

I love this image. How wonderful to actually witness the very moment when the buds open on a Spring morning and the gold is revealed. The promise of light from darkness.

I’ll leave you to think about the final lines yourself. Whether in a reading group or on your own I do urge you to hold yourself suspended after reading still, take a breath before experiencing the joyous upbeat of the rejoicing heart.

Take all the world away – and leave me still
The mirth and music of a woman’s voice,

That bids the heart be happy and rejoice.

Love And Solitude

I hate the very noise of troublous man
Who did and does me all the harm he can.
Free from the world I would a prisoner be
And my own shadow all my company;
And lonely see the shooting stars appear,
Worlds rushing into judgment all the year.
O lead me onward to the loneliest shade,
The darkest place that quiet ever made,
Where kingcups grow most beauteous to behold
And shut up green and open into gold.
Farewell to poesy--and leave the will;
Take all the world away--and leave me still
The mirth and music of a woman's voice,
That bids the heart be happy and rejoice.

by Thomas Hardy

Would you like the opportunity to read this or other poems in a Shared Reading group?

If you like the idea of listening along to a story or poem, why not come along to a Shared Reading group? We run groups across the UK, you can find one near you here.

If you can’t find a group in your local community, why not help us bring Shared Reading to your area by becoming a volunteer?

 

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