Jonathan Bate John Clare

ISBN 13: 9780330371124

John Clare

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9780330371124: John Clare

`What distinguished Clare is an unspectacular joy and a love for the inexorable one-thing-after-anotherness of the world' Seamus Heaney John Clare (1793-1864) was a great Romantic poet, with a name to rival that of Blake, Byron, Wordsworth or Shelley - and a life to match. The `poet's poet', he has a place in the national pantheon and, more tangibly, a plaque in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner, unveiled in 1989. Here at last is Clare's full story, from his birth in poverty and employment as an agricultural labourer, via his burgeoning promise as a writer - cultivated under the gaze of rival patrons - and moment of fame, in the company of John Keats, as the toast of literary London, to his final decline into mental illness and the last years of his life, confined in asylums. Clare's ringing voice - quick-witted, passionate, vulnerable, courageous - emerges through extracts from his letters, journals, autobiographical writings and poems, as Jonathan Bate brings this complex man, his revered work and his ribald world, vividly to life.

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About the Author:

Jonathan Bate, born in 1958, is the author of The Genius of Shakespeare, Song of the Earth and a novel, The Cure for Love. He is the Leverhulme Research Professor of English at the University of Warwick and writes regularly for the Telegraph, the TLS and the Independent.

From The Washington Post:

John Clare (1793-1864), who was born in the village of Helpston, Northamptonshire, in the eastern flatlands of England, found his poetry in the woods and fields, in the intricate nests of birds and the avid renewal of wildflowers, in "a language that is ever green." He was enabled by what he read -- James Thompson's poem "The Seasons" inspired him to become a poet -- and often wandered through the fields with a book jammed in his pocket. "The fields were our church," he later recalled, "and we seemed to feel a religious feeling in our haunts on the sabbath." A secular religious sensibility -- "the quiet love of nature's presence" -- animates his work, early and late.

Jonathan Bate's capacious and detailed new book, John Clare: A Biography (Farrar Straus Giroux, $40), tells the story of England's greatest working-class poet with deep sympathy and understanding. It is published simultaneously with a splendid selected poems that demonstrates the complete range of Clare's achievement, which is no mean feat since he wrote more than 3,500 poems over a 35-year period. The punctuation is a bit too regularized for my taste -- Clare was a madcap and eccentric punctuator at best -- but the trade-off in literal accuracy does give the poems fuller accessibility to a wider audience. He breathes in these pages.

Clare was "addicted" to poetry, helpless before his rural muse. He was an agricultural laborer, who published four poetry books during his lifetime, containing less than one-quarter of his total output. He was taken up as a "peasant poet" in London, supported by rival patrons, cultivated, condescended to, neglected. He was dogged by poverty most of his life. He had a keen ear for the vernacular and championed local customs, yet was considered "peculiar" by his neighbors. He stuck out everywhere -- an alien at home, a lonely visionary. He empathized with outsiders, such as gypsies, whom he characterized as "a quiet, pilfering, unprotected race." It is no wonder, then, that shy, vulnerable creatures especially called to him -- the snipe, the marten, the badger, the field-mouse.

Clare was a prodigious walker, a solitary who sought out the secret recesses of nature, a hidden, underappreciated, overlooked country, which he detailed with a sharp eye and a naturalist's sensibility. Accuracy was a scrupulous habit, a moral imperative. He had a powerful capacity to identify with what he observed. Bate points out that more than 50 of Clare's poems begin "I love." "Poets love nature and themselves are love," he wrote in a late sonnet. "For everything I felt a love,/ The weeds below, the birds above," he declared in "The Progress of Rhyme." Bate also notes that the most common noun in Clare's mature poetry is "joy." One distinguishing feature of Clare's work is the ethic of reciprocity that he brought to his encounters with the natural world.

Clare's poetry intimately chronicles a world that was rapidly disappearing, that was systematically divided up into rectangular plots of land, fenced off and restricted, enclosed. This gives particular social and political relevance to his highly personal first subject, the lost Eden of childhood, a world that he never forgot but that seemed to abandon him. It also gives additional poignancy to his love poems, which are typically invitations: "Let us go in the fields, love, and see the green tree;/ Let's go in the meadows and hear the wild bee;/ There's plenty of pleasure for you, love, and me/ In the mirth and the music of nature."

We'll down the green meadow and up the lone glen

And down the woodside far away from all men,

And there we'll talk over our love-tales again

Where last year the nightingale sung.

He loved to roam so freely through open fields, through wilds and waste places, through uncultivated regions, that it comes as something of a shock to find him suddenly looking back over his shoulder for magistrates and gamekeepers.

I dreaded walking where there was no path

And pressed with cautious tread the meadow swath

And always turned to look with wary eye

And always feared the owner coming by;

Yet everything about where I had gone

Appeared so beautiful I ventured on

And when I gained the road where all are free

I fancied every stranger frowned at me

And every kinder look appeared to say

"You've been on trespass in your walk today."

I've often thought, the day appeared so fine,

How beautiful if such a place were mine;

But, having naught, I never feel alone

And cannot use another's as my own.

Clare was alert both to social and economic alienation. E. P. Thompson recognized that "Clare may be described, without hindsight, as a poet of ecological protest: he was not writing about man here and nature there, but lamenting a threatened equilibrium in which both were involved."

He suffered from a disconcerting number of physical and mental troubles. Bate scrupulously chronicles the tormented years from 1837 to 1864 that the poet spent in the High Beach Asylum and the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum. He suggests that Clare "conforms to the classic pattern . . . of manic depression or 'bipoloar affective disorder,' " though in the end concludes that he was most likely schizophrenic. He had periods of lucidity mixed with bouts of depression and episodes of mania. He was emotionally volatile. He suffered from delusions and obsessively identified himself with Lord Byron. One of his strangest literary performances is "Don Juan: A Poem," which begins, " 'Poets are born' -- and so are whores -- the trade is/ Grown universal."

Clare was also gripped by the notion that he had two wives. One was his actual wife, the other his youthful crush and early muse, Mary Joyce. "To Mary" begins:

I sleep with thee and wake with thee

And yet thou are not there;

I fill my arms with thoughts of thee

And press the common air.

Thy eyes are gazing upon mine

When thou art out of sight;

My lips are always touching thine

At morning, noon and night.

Clare continued writing all through his asylum years: "I wrote because it pleased me in sorrow," he said, "and when I am happy it makes me more happy and so I go on."

Some of Clare's finest works were asylum poems: "A Vision," "An Invite to Eternity," a poem addressed to his namesake, and two disconsolate self-revelations that begin "I am," one a sonnet ("I feel I am -- I only know I am"), the other a lyric that stands as his most haunting memorial, a poem with a simple eloquence, a shocking lucidity.

Lines: "I Am"

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 oblivion's host

Like shadows in love-frenzied stifled throes --

And yet I am and live -- like vapours tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,

Into the living sea of waking dreams

Where there is neither sense of life or joys

But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;

Even the dearest that I love the best

Are strange -- nay, rather, stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man hath never trod,

A place where woman never smiled 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.

By Edward Hirsch


Copyright 2004, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.

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Descrizione libro Pan MacMillan, United Kingdom, 2004. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. `What distinguished Clare is an unspectacular joy and a love for the inexorable one-thing-after-anotherness of the world Seamus Heaney John Clare (1793-1864) was a great Romantic poet, with a name to rival that of Blake, Byron, Wordsworth or Shelley - and a life to match. The `poet s poet , he has a place in the national pantheon and, more tangibly, a plaque in Westminster Abbey s Poets Corner, unveiled in 1989. Here at last is Clare s full story, from his birth in poverty and employment as an agricultural labourer, via his burgeoning promise as a writer - cultivated under the gaze of rival patrons - and moment of fame, in the company of John Keats, as the toast of literary London, to his final decline into mental illness and the last years of his life, confined in asylums. Clare s ringing voice - quick-witted, passionate, vulnerable, courageous - emerges through extracts from his letters, journals, autobiographical writings and poems, as Jonathan Bate brings this complex man, his revered work and his ribald world, vividly to life. Codice libro della libreria AA79780330371124

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Descrizione libro Pan MacMillan, United Kingdom, 2004. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. `What distinguished Clare is an unspectacular joy and a love for the inexorable one-thing-after-anotherness of the world Seamus Heaney John Clare (1793-1864) was a great Romantic poet, with a name to rival that of Blake, Byron, Wordsworth or Shelley - and a life to match. The `poet s poet , he has a place in the national pantheon and, more tangibly, a plaque in Westminster Abbey s Poets Corner, unveiled in 1989. Here at last is Clare s full story, from his birth in poverty and employment as an agricultural labourer, via his burgeoning promise as a writer - cultivated under the gaze of rival patrons - and moment of fame, in the company of John Keats, as the toast of literary London, to his final decline into mental illness and the last years of his life, confined in asylums. Clare s ringing voice - quick-witted, passionate, vulnerable, courageous - emerges through extracts from his letters, journals, autobiographical writings and poems, as Jonathan Bate brings this complex man, his revered work and his ribald world, vividly to life. Codice libro della libreria AA79780330371124

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Descrizione libro Picador, 2004. Condizione libro: New. 2004. New ed. Paperback. The definitive biography of John Clare -- the poet's poet -- from Jonathan Bate Num Pages: 300 pages, Illustrations, ports. BIC Classification: 2AB; BG; DSBF; DSC. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 200 x 129 x 43. Weight in Grams: 554. . . . . . . Codice libro della libreria V9780330371124

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Descrizione libro Picador. Condizione libro: New. 2004. New ed. Paperback. The definitive biography of John Clare -- the poet's poet -- from Jonathan Bate Num Pages: 300 pages, Illustrations, ports. BIC Classification: 2AB; BG; DSBF; DSC. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 200 x 129 x 43. Weight in Grams: 554. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Codice libro della libreria V9780330371124

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