John Clare: The Critical Heritage

By Mark Storey | Go to book overview

debasing dependence, rather than accept the work which they consider beneath their powers. Let them see in John Clare that the humblest labor does not degrade genius, nay, that its faithful performance elevates.

If the task assigned you be lowly, work in it diligently and steadily. In such work lies true heroism, the only heroism possible to most of us; and to the earnest worker, never to the idler, comes the call, ‘Come up higher!’


112.

The doomed poet

1873

J. L. Cherry, from Life and Remains of John Clare, 1873, pp. 129-30. See Introduction, pp. 15-16.

In looking back upon such a life as Clare’s, so prominent are the human interests which confront us, that those of poetry, as one of the fine arts, are not unlikely to sink for a time completely out of sight. The long and painful strain upon our sympathy to which we are subject as we read the story is such perhaps as the life of no other English poet puts upon us. The spell of the great moral problems by which the lives of so many of our poets seem to have been more or less surrounded makes itself felt in every step of Clare’s career. We are tempted to speak in almost fatalistic language of the disastrous gift of the poetic faculty, and to find in that the source of all Clare’s woe. The well-known lines—

We poets in our youth begin in gladness,
But thereof come in the end despondency and
madness—

ring in our ears, and we remember that these are the words of a poet

-287-

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