Friday, 1 January 2010

Sonnet - John Clare

John Clare's simply-titled 'Sonnet' of 1841 is a clear statement of his love of the English summer time. He begins with the phrase 'I love...', and this is repeated in the third line as well as the eleventh, with 'I like...' echoing in the ninth line.

Clare uses imagery to focus on the sights of nature that give him so much pleasure. In the first line, summer is personified as 'beaming forth'. In the second line he skilfully combines alliteration and metaphor in his description of 'white wool sack clouds': his comparison of clouds to wool is fitting in that it keeps the imagery within the domain of nature. Colours of flowers are emphasised in the fourth and fifth lines: 'Mare blobs stain with gold' and 'water lilies whiten'.

In line six, Clare turns to the sound of reeds that 'rustle like wind shook wood', again combining two figures of speech – this time simile and assonance. He expresses his love of watching the Moor Hen searching for her nest in the rushes as well as his admiration of the weeping willow beside the 'clear deep lake'. The long 'ee' sounds in the phrase 'clear deep' emphasis the peace and stillness of the water.

Clare watches flowers swaying and insects flying about in the hay grass in lines eleven and twelve. 'Swings', 'winds' and 'wings' within those two lines build up assonance and alliteration to create a pleasant atmosphere of gentle movement. The final two lines of the sonnet emphasise the fine summer weather and sunshine in the phrases 'bright day' and 'bright beetles'. The insects 'sport about the meadow', giving a feeling of play and enjoyment of the season and the sun. The sonnet ends with a return to the 'clear lake', echoing line ten and giving a sense of unity.

The sonnet is unusual in its lack of punctuation – there is not even a full stop at the end of the final line. The lack of commas or semi-colons allows one line to flow into the next and gives a sense of continuity. The rhyme scheme is, on the other hand, very straightforward and traditional, lending harmony to the sonnet. This is a poem to be appreciated for its simplicity, beautiful imagery and expression of love of nature.

I love to see the summer beaming forth
And white wool sack clouds sailing to the north
I love to see the wild flowers come again
And Mare blobs stain with gold the meadow drain
And water lilies whiten on the floods
Where reed clumps rustle like a wind shook wood
Where from her hiding place the Moor Hen pushes
And seeks her flag nest floating in bull rushes
I like the willow leaning half way o'er
The clear deep lake to stand upon its shore
I love the hay grass when the flower head swings
To summer winds and insects happy wings
That sport about the meadow the bright day
And see bright beetles in the clear lake play

John Clare

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