3 Ways In Which Animals Contribute To The Water Cycle Analysis of John Clare’s Love Poem "First Love"

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Analysis of John Clare’s Love Poem "First Love"

“First Love” was written by John Clare, 1793-1864, about his first true love, Mary Joyce, whom he met when he was only 10 years old. She was the daughter of a wealthy farmer who forbade his daughter from dating Clare, a poor worker, and his separation from her created an overwhelming sense of loss that set the tone for many of Clare’s love poems.

poet

Clare was mired in poverty all his life. He was malnourished during his youth, which contributed to his poor health later in life. Sometimes he made his paper by scraping birch bark and made his ink with some colors and rainwater. Charity from his church sustained him until he published his first book of poetry.

John Clare married Martha Turner in 1820, the same year he published his first book of poems. His “rural poetry” was relatively popular in the early 1820s, and Clare enjoyed some success throughout London. By the 1830s, the popularity of his poetry had waned. Clare published 5 books of poetry during this period, each better than the last, but each selling fewer copies than the last.

Although Clare lived during the Industrial Revolution, his early poems show his keen knowledge of the annual cycles of the rural countryside. Clare gained a reputation for being able to write delightful descriptions of the world’s natural beauty and the details of animal husbandry and crop harvesting.

Friends and supporters helped Clare and his family move into a larger cottage, but with a wife and seven children Clare was unable to adequately provide for his family. He felt alienated in his new location and became more depressed. Stress and depression overtook Clare and he was admitted to a mental asylum in 1837. He had become delusional, imagining himself as Lord Byron at times, Shakespeare at others and sometimes a prizefighter or a son of George III.

He returned home from the asylum in 1841, some 100 miles away, hoping to be reunited with his first love, Mary Joyce. He had convinced himself that he was married to both the woman and Mary Joyce at the same time. He imagined he had children with Mary Joyce as well. Disappointed and distraught at not finding him, Clare entered another asylum where he stayed for the rest of his life.

He continued to write poetry as his health permitted while confined to the asylum. In fact, some of his best love poems were written during the early years of this isolation. In total, Clare wrote over 3,500 poems, about 400 of which were published during his lifetime. He composed his first poem, The Morning Walk, at the age of 13 after being inspired by reading a copy of James Thomson’s The Seasons.

Poetry

“First Love” is an unforgettable, romantic poem written by a prominent romantic poet. The poem has inspired many readers who often remember it strongly and easily quote the last stanza of the poem.

The poem is well constructed with a typical romantic rhythm and rhyme scheme. The rhyme is a consistent abab when the poem is read as six quatrains. The rhythm generally consists of lines of iambic tetrameters, eight syllables with even syllables stressed. However, the rhythm is not consistent, especially as seen in the last two stanzas of the poem. To conclude his poem Clare uses a typical ballad meter with a tetrameter line followed by a trimeter line. This choice gives the end of the poem a musical quality.

Several similes and metaphors are evident in the poem. The metaphor in the last two lines has led to several different interpretations. Some think that the lines mean that the poet has realized that his love is lost and will never be repaid; the lines express rejection and loneliness. Others think that the lines show that the poet is mentally unstable. Still others think the lines represent the romantic notion that one can lose themselves in love and be “head over heels” or “lost” in love.

First love

This is how the poem begins:

I was not hit before that hour

With love so sudden and so sweet.

Her face blossomed like a sweet flower

And it completely stole my heart.

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