John Clare: The Critical Heritage

By Mark Storey | Go to book overview

29.

From an unsigned review, Antijacobin Review

June 1820, lviii, 348-53

This little volume is the production of a second Burns; a poet in humble life, whose genius has burst through the fetters with which his situation had surrounded it; and astonished the neighbouring villages with the brilliancy of his song. Amidst all the privations attendant on the life of the labouring peasant, this genuine child of poesy has written a volume, many articles in which would reflect no disgrace upon a far nobler name, and we are glad, that a public-spirited individual has snatched them from obscurity; we rejoice, that they are not doomed

To blow unseen,
And waste their sweetness on the desert air….

[Biographical details]

The volume thus compiled, consists of a number of miscellaneous poems, descriptive and pathetic; tales, songs, ballads, and sonnets. They display considerable poetic talent and a genius peculiarly his own; delighting to celebrate nature in her homeliest dress, and painting, with the force of truth, the wants and miseries of poverty’s hapless children. Yet no envious spirit, no carping discontent, is to be traced in Clare’s Poems. Resignation to his lot appears to be a prominent feature in his character, combined with that love of his native village, which frequently bears such potent sway in the mind of the unlettered rustic. The conclusion of the first Poem in the collection, called ‘Helpstone, ’ displays, in no unfavourable point of view, both the poetical talent, and the disposition of the writer. For, it may be fairly presumed that, writing with no view to fame, either present or posthumous, he did not ‘affect a virtue, if he had it not;’ but portrayed the genuine effusions of his heart.

[Quotes ‘Helpstone’: ‘Oh happy Eden…’ to the end]

We did not commence this article with a view to write an elaborate critique upon poems written under the circumstances in which Clare

-105-

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