John Clare: A Life

John Clare: A Life

John Clare: A Life

John Clare: A Life

Excerpt

Our aim has been three-fold: first to put before the steadily growing numbers of Clare's readers his Life again, in the light of fresh knowledge, and here and there, we hope, maturer insight. Secondly, our aim has been to attempt to trace the development of Clare's poetry, in form and content. Since poets themselves are most often among their own most proper critics, Clare's aims, both when they were expressed and clear as daylight, and when they were struggling into consciousness, have been brought forward wherever possible. The third part of our aim may thus not be thought monstrous for mere prose persons: it has been no more than to endeavour to start what in Clare's case has been so long delayed, the fullest exploration of his poetry and his place among poets.

In spite of the appreciation of many outstanding present-day poets and critics, Clare is still much, and contradictorily, subjudice. More than that, the best of his poetry is still not sufficiently known. Arthur Symons, in 1908, was the first to value him for the right things. Yet reviews of his poetry can still take astonishingly opposite standpoints since the pioneering of Edmund Blunden and Alan Porter in 1920: Clare is 'without deep emotion'. He is 'one of the most vibrantly strong' of poets. He has 'no form'. He has 'a most profound sense of form'. The time has come for an attempt to clear away at least some of the brushwood.

The indispensable Poems Chiefly from Manuscript of 1920 contains Mr.Blunden's sensitive and beautiful introduction. Sketches in the Life of John Clare by Himself was edited by Mr. Blunden, too, in 1931. Mr. Geoffrey Grigson's Poems of John Clare's Madness was published in 1948, and his Selection in 1950. Mr. James Reeves's Selection, with its poet's foreword, was offered in 1954. And Clare's Letters and his Prose both appeared . . .

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