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A stranger once did bless the earth

A stranger once did bless the earth. John Clare* (1793-1864). This is from a poem by Clare beginning ‘When trouble haunts me, need I sigh’, which has ten 6-line verses. It was not published during Clare’s life-time, but was included in John Clare: Poems chiefly from Manuscript, edited by Edmund Blunden and Alan Porter (1920). It is found in Margaret Grainger’s Index to the Clare manuscripts held at Peterborough Museum (under A 57, so written 1824-35). It is printed in The Poems of John Clare, ed. J.W. Tibble (1935), II. 274-6, entitled ‘The Stranger’. The hymn begins with verse 4 of the poem, which began ‘Ay, once a stranger blest the earth’. Five stanzas (4, 5, 7, 8, 10) were used as a...

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