Colours of Autumn. John Clare
Now that the year is drawing to a close
Such mellow tints on trees and bushes lie
So like to sunshine that it brighter glows
As one looks more intently. On the sky
I turn astonished that no sun is there;
The ribboned strips of orange, blue and red
Streaks through the western sky a gorgeous bed,
Painting day’s end most beautifully fair,
So mild, so quiet breathes the balmy air,
Scenting the perfume of decaying leaves
Such fragrance and such loveliness they wear-
Trees, hedgerows, bushes- that the heart receives
Joys for which language owners words too few
To paint that glowing richness which I view.
October. Edward Thomas
The green elm with the one great bough of gold
Lets leaves into the grass slip, one by one, –
The short hill grass, the mushrooms small milk-white,
Harebell and scabious and tormentil,
That blackberry and gorse, in dew and sun,
Bow down to; and the wind travels too light
To shake the fallen birch leaves from the fern;
The gossamers wander at their own will,
At heavier steps than bird’s the Squirrels scold.
The rich scene has grown fresh again and new
As Spring and to the touch is not more cool
Than it is warm to the gaze; and now I might
As happy be as earth is beautiful,
Were I some other or with earth could turn
In alteration of violet and rose,
Harebell and snowdrop, at their season due,
And gorse that has no time not to be gay.
But if this be not happiness, – who knows?
Some day I shall think this is a happy day,
And this mood by the name of melancholy
Shall no more blackened and obscured be.
You could follow reading Clare’s poem, Colours of Autumn immediately with the Thomas’ ‘October‘ first verse through to the line…… ‘as happy be as earth is beautiful’ in the second verse and they might be mistaken as a single voice. However Thomas’ lines after this begin to slide away into a questioning of his mood and ability to find what his personal ‘peace of mind may be’. Hopeful, perhaps, but not convinced.
Clare’s poem illustrates his more positive view of life. His moods may have varied tremendously over the years but overall his personal outlook was positive despite the tremendous difficulties of his life and times. It seems to me (albeit a terrible over simplification) that Clare was a glass half-full sort of man whilst Edward Thomas a glass half-empty man. Clare could find a great deal of peace in solitude and observation whereas Thomas could see the beauty but not ‘feel’ it. It is also interesting to consider that both men lived through periods of social and political turmoil at turns of (different) centuries: not forgetting the differences in their social groups.