Poems by Pete Cox

Pete Cox is the current resident poet at the John Clare Cottage. Pete, also know as "Cardinal Cox" has having his writings published in the small-press for around 30 years. These include reviews, articles and short stories. 

Together with other members of Poets United, in Peterborough, he recorded poetry and letters from the First World War to accompany an exhibition at Peterborough Museum.Pete is working with the Cottage to develop poems inspired by the life, times and surroundings of John Clare.

  • He Was

    He was – and many more are like him now
    Searching for a place of rest
    As he had once followed plough
    And gazed upon the thrush’s nest
    So many more have held employ
    Known the warmth of family joy

    He left asylum to wander roads
    Aiming for a home he knew
    Still I see others bearing his load
    And every month another new
    Some wounded by the life we lead
    Others feeling that they’ve been freed

    I know these should not be hidden
    Imprisoned as though there’d been a crime
    No one welcomes the madness unbidden
    But these are witnesses to our time
    For any land that cannot protect the weak
    Has little good for us to speak

    Cardinal Cox wrote this while Poet Laureate of Peterborough in 2003 and, unfortunately, feels it is still relevant today.

  • At a Poet's Grave

    Above is a sky that is still as blue
    The church is plain but in love adorned
    Outside, through time, one who is still mourned
    And yet some fields remain that you once knew

    With simple flowers that the children strew
    Country churchyard beneath the blazing sun
    Amongst the neat graves we have come for one
    Beneath the stone lies but one part of you

    Your stone, on which thrush might smash a snail,
    Your stone that says, “Poets are born not made”
    Words live on even if dusty on shelf

    Your stone so weathered by rain and gale
    For when your immortal soul is weighed
    That is a life eternal for yourself

    Cardinal Cox wrote this during the period that he was Poet-in-Residence for the Broadway Cemetery in Peterborough (2005 – 2008).

Songbird in a Cage

Clare made a pet of a mimicking bird
He kept a starling in a wicker cage
Trained to repeat whistles and simple word

So the creature echoed back what it heard
Singing while he scratched upon a blank page
Clare made a pet of a mimicking bird

Outside the cottage a hungry cat purred
Number of worms and spiders John would gauge
Trained to repeat whistles and simple word

If released, oh how the wings would have blurred
Always a look in its black eye of rage
Clare made a pet of a mimicking bird

For every pair there is an unseen third
Together they’d recite as though on stage
Trained to repeat whistles and simple word

Those who ever enchain the free have erred
Would he recall this bird in his old age?
Clare made a pet of a mimicking bird
Trained to repeat whistles and simple word

Cardinal Cox wrote this poem as part of a cycle of verse to mark the 150th anniversary of Clare’s death in 2014.