Laboring-Class Poets Online

John Clare: Remix

Posted on: July 23, 2013

What time the gales that morning’s freshness brings
When labour’s pleasant hour begins –
While on the cote the pigeon rests
Woman the world’s best wealth stirs.

Why did we come so far from home?

This is not a poem by John Clare. It is not a poem – or rather, not a poem in a proper sense.

It is a list of first lines that need to be properly formatted in HTML.

Let me back up. Unrelated to the Laboring-Class Poets Online project, we are building a page of John Clare resources (some of which were gathered in conjunction with some of the information contained in the database). The first step of this is to publish a first-line index of John Clare’s poems.

For some reason, the formatting of just these few lines was not preserved in the transition from Word Document to HTML. They have to be encoded “by hand,” so to speak. Not difficult. Rather fun after a while, actually.

Especially since a curiously artistic aspect of this undertaking has emerged…

In an instance of digital serendipity, the first lines make poems themselves! Three such poems formed themselves in the process of editing the first-lines index. The poem at the beginning of this post is actually the last to be “written,” as I was going through the Index alphabetically (evidenced in the poem by the repeating Ws).

Remixing poetry is, of course, nothing new – one has only to look at conventional modes like pastoral or gothic for evidence of very effective generic “remixing.” But here I am working with a corpus of elements from a single author, never the case with generic remixing. This is more like remixing as we know it, an artist creating a new edition of another artist’s work.

What I also find so interesting about the Clare remixes is how, completely coincidentally, they manage to capture some of the major themes of his larger body of poetry. They seem less “remixed” than lost or undiscovered, found in an moment of ordered and breathtaking happenstance.

If only I got a blessing like this every time I had a boring or repetitive task in front of me…

Remix #1:

Lord, talk about beauty no blossom bestows
Lowley I my heart will bow

My heart is ?but of <foolish> fancy
My love was young & very young
My Mary dear my early choice

Now in the spinney hedge full many a bird
Now morn awakens…
Now on his eye his native place appears

O give me a house in an untrodden glen

Remix #2:

She clapt…
So lisped a child

The blackbird is a bonny bird
The black birds wing was draggling…
The borders o’ bushes and hedgesides…
The daisy…
The dewey morn…
The dews that had been…
The ducklings…
The dwarf wood briar…
The fowl…
The furze…
The hillocks…

The maiden takes the basket…
The mind will dream & cling
The mowing gangs bend…

The path leads[… /] The plough on…
The river curls…
The silken breeze wakes…
The sinking sun behind the trees went down
The sloe…
The sloping sun…

The smooth horse gallop of a flatterer’s tongue
The summer morn is one delight

The willow for a crown
The wood land banks…
The world [rolls] on by trick & playing

Their joy…
Their anecdotes…
They come like fancy’s happy freaks

Thou art mine love…
Thy little brig…
Tis money…
Tis morn…
True love but seldom…

And once more, Remix #3:

What time the gales that morning’s freshness brings
When labour’s pleasant hour begins –
While on the cote the pigeon rests
Woman the world’s best wealth stirs.

Why did we come so far from home?

All information courtesy of Dr. John Goodridge (Nottingham-Trent University) and the John Clare Resource Page, currently under construction and providing a wonderful distraction from LCPO data entry.

*If you are an active follower of the LCPO project and this website, you may have noticed our unannounced hiatus last week. All junior staff members were attending Digital Humanities 2013 in Lincoln, NE. Despite our best intentions, we were unable to both attend the conference and attend to the progress blog. Our deepest apologies! 🙂

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Information about and updates from the "Laboring-Class Poets Online" project, an in-progress digitization of a database of British and Irish laboring-class poets who wrote between 1700-1900.

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