The Dying Child (John Clare)

The Dying Child

by John Clare

He could not die when trees were green,
For he loved the time too well.
His little hands, when flowers were seen,
Were held for the bluebell,
As he was carried o’er the green.

His eye glanced at the white-nosed bee;
He knew those children of the spring:
When he was well and on the lea
He held one in his hands to sing,
Which filled his heart with glee.

Infants, the children of the spring!
How can an infant die
When butterflies are on the wing,
Green grass, and such a sky?
How can they die at spring?

He held his hands for daisies white,
And then for violets blue,
And took them all to bed at night
That in the green fields grew,
As childhood’s sweet delight.

And then he shut his little eyes,
And flowers would notice not;
Birds’ nests and eggs caused no surprise,
He now no blossoms got;
They met with plaintive sighs.

When winter came and blasts did sigh,
And bare were plain and tree,
As he for ease in bed did lie
His soul seemed with the free,
He died so quietly.



My young little boy; he was only four, when he first got ill. It was a beautiful day last May, last spring. Wherever he would go, he was surrounded by trees that were just growing their first blossoms, and beautiful flowers – his favourites being the bluebells that grew in the field just behind our house – which he would try to grasp as he was carried through the field.

In his last months, when he had his good days, and we were out on the paddock, he would love to see the bees up in the sky, and he would hold one in his hands and sing a song, that cheered him up immediately. It melted my heart to see that the joy of spring was of such great importance to him.

These little children, meant to be enjoying their youthful time in spring, how could they possibly die, when the butterflies flutter all around, when the grass is green and the sky is blue as never seen before? How could they die during spring?

My little son would pick the flowers that grew in the fields, every single year. He picked the white daisies, and the blue violets, and took them all up to his room. Such little things can mean so much, it’s the joy that childhood brings.

And then he closed his little eyes, yet everything outside stayed the same. The flowers kept dancing in the wind, and the birds still quietly sat in their nests, watching over their eggs, while my son was missing the spirit of life.

But when winter came, it was cold outside – the flowers were dead, the trees without blossom – and he peacefully lay in his bed. And when he last glanced up to me, his eyes seemed to say “I’m free to go with the spirit of spring” and so he let out his very last breath.

by Anonymous


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