The Idler's Epistle to John Clare by Charles Elton

The Idler’s Epistle to John Clare

So loth, friend John, to quit the town?
Twas in the dales thou won’st renown:
I would not John!  for half-a-crown
         Have left thee there;
Taking my lonely journey down
         To rural air.

The paven flat of endless street
Is all unsuited to thy feet;
The fog-wet smoke is all unmet
         For such as thou;
Who thought’st the meadown verdure sweet
         But think’st not now.

‘Time’s hoarse unfether’d nightingales’ (*)
Inspire not like the birds of vales;
I know their haunt in river dales
         On many a tree,
And they reserve their sweetest tales
         John Clare  for thee.

Tis true thou paintest to the eye
The straw-thatch’d roof with elm-tree nigh;
But thou has wisdom to descry
         What lurks below;
The springing tear, the melting sigh,
         The cheek’s heart-glow

Some grievously suspect thee, Clare!
They want to know they form of prayer;
Thou dost not cant, and so they stare
         And smell free-thinking;
They bid thee of the devil beware,
         And vote thee sinking.

With smile sedate and patient eye
Thou mark’st the creedmen pass thee by,
To rave and raise a hue and cry
         Against each other:
Thou see’st a father up on high,
         In man a brother.

Charles Abraham Elton
August 1824

(*) A line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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