: John Clare Composes a Begging Letter :

an excerpt by Jordan Smith


A patron requires, first, an accounting

Of gratitude's exact dimensions,

A survey taken of the mounting

Interest on guilt's obligations,

And keep it pleasant, and keep it quaintly

Obsequious with amn'ts and ain'ts,


Since language and humility

Are often at odds, long odds at that,

For anything like dignity.

But grace? Yes, grace. Doff your hat,

As if it were a rustic's fancy

To honor a lord's fantasy


Of peasant chivalry, and bow

 Your thanks, and do be circumspect

Whate'er you request with lowered

Eyes and figures and expectations—

Fewer shillings than of paper a dozen quires.

And sign it poet (scratch out Esq).