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John Clare

June 27, 2011

I’ve got a bit more into the music reviews recently and thought it was high time I returned to my first love of poetry. I was racking my brain for poetry article ideas when I remembered (how could I forget?) the incredible naturalist poet John Clare.

Clare is a Romantic poet, as are Smith and Wordsworth, yet he is often overlooked. I can’t imagine why, as he is a poetic genius in his own right. Aside from his intricate descriptions of the natural world, for which they are best known, Clare’s poems reveal a human quest for love and voice, delving into the uncertainty of what it means to exist, or have a voice, in a world where human love can lead to disillusionment (see Mona – The Art of Love).

Take ‘I Am’, for example, arguably one of the best poems of all time:

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
And e’en the dearest–that I loved the best–
Are strange–nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil’d or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below–above the vaulted sky. 

In this poem, Clare moves from looking down into himself to adopting Wordsworth’s method of “‘looking through Nature up to Nature’s God’” (qtd. in Tibble xxvii), rediscovering the joy of solitude and reflection on nature which “[h]e loved for his [“God almighty’s”] sake” (Clare “The Peasant Poet”).

Paul writes that “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Romans 1:20). In other words, when we see the world around us, how beautiful nature is, it points us to our Creator God.

Clare sanguinely concludes the first song of the enigmatic ‘Child Harold’ as follows: “True love is eternal/ For God is the giver/ And love like the soul will/ Endure – and forever”.

P.S. Wasn’t it just the loveliest weather today? I’m sure Clare would’ve appreciated it.


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