Saturday, October 22, 2011

An Anti Catholic Poet Who Inadvertently Penned a Lament to Our Holy Mother

Not until my pastor suggested today during the Sacrament of Reconciliation that I take my troubles to the Holy Mother did I find out the Church has devoted the month of October to Mary. Several Marian feasts are celebrated this month, which also is the Month of the Holy Rosary. (the rosary here is from

So I went in search of a poem devoted to Mary. I found one in a most unexpected place: the writings of John Clare, a virulent anti Catholic who died in 1864 after a twenty-year struggle with severe depression. He is a fascinating man, who wrote some of the world's most beautiful descriptions of nature. (Pictured here are John Clare roses, small, translucent pink roses that bloom into winter) He now is considered one of the most important 19th century poets writing in English. I hope to devote more space to him at a later date.

For now, I would like to introduce this lovely lament, "To Mary: It is the Evening Hour."

The son of poor laborers, John Clare wrote this about to his first love, a woman named Mary whose wealthy family forbade him to meet, much less marry. Understandably, some of the imagery is decidedly romantic. But what draws me to this poem is Clare's probably inadvertent message that the greatest Mary of them all, our Holy Mother, is someone to whom he longed to carry his deepest fears and joys.  I only wish John Clare could have realized the Holy Mother was walking beside him all along. I pray he found in death the solace that eluded him in life. 

 It is the evening hour,
How silent all doth lie,
The horned moon he shows his face
In the river with the sky.
Just by the path on which we pass,
The flaggy lake lies still as glass.
Spirit of her I love,
Whispering to me,
Stories of sweet visions, as I rove,
Here stop, and crop with me
Sweet flowers that in the still hour grew,
We’ll take them home, nor shake off the bright dew.
Mary, or sweet spirit of thee,
As the bright sun shines tomorrow.
Thy dark eyes these flowers shall see,
Gathered by me in sorrow.
In the still hour when my mind was free
Walk alone - yet wish I walked with thee. 

-John Clare


  1. Northampton, were John Clare spent many years in an asylum is the home of my paternal ancestors and were we lived for 10 years, married and our 3 sons were born there.Although the village he came from is now in Leicestershire Clare was a Northamptonshire boy.
    Northampton is well worth looking up history wise!

  2. Have a Happy Sunday. I always look forward to this day, it jump starts my week on the right note. Fueled and ready to go.

  3. @Marion: Amazing!
    @Heidi: Thank you so much. Right back at you.

  4. There is one by Wordsworth, not a Catholic, as far as know, in which he calls Mary "nature's solitary boast". t

  5. with thine eyes had blessed thee
    we see nature in light of she...

  6. I love this poem, thank you for sharing it! It really makes me reflect on a lot of wonderful things. Mary was certainly an angel amongst women!
    Chris :o)

  7. If you're interested in Marian poetry, I would highly suggest Richard Crashaw, Hopkins, and Thomas Merton. The latter read the two former and at least two of his Marian poems are responses to those of Hopkins.