John Clare: The Critical Heritage

By Mark Storey | Go to book overview

[Quotes ‘Song s Eternity’, stanzas 4 and 5]

Obviously, Clare was more intensely concerned about the bird than about the eternity on which it set him thinking. He does come nearer an imaginative vision of life in this than in most of his poems. But, where Shelley would have given us an image, Clare is content to set down ‘Tootle, tootle, tootle tee. ’ …

…Knowing the events of his life, we read Clare’s poetry with all the more intense curiosity. And, if we do not expect to find a Blake or a Wordsworth, we shall not be disappointed. Certainly this is a book that must go on the shelf near the works of Mr. Hudson.


127.

Edmund Gosse, a dissentient view

1921

From a review of Poems, Chiefly from Manuscript, Sunday Times, 23 January 1921, no. 5102, 5.

Sir Edmund Gosse (1849-1928), a frequent book reviewer, was famous for his Father and Son, 1907. He succeeded Leslie Stephen as a lecturer in English at Trinity College, Cambridge, 1884-90. See No. 134, and Introduction, p. 19.

One hundred years ago Keats was dying, and Shelley was unconsciously approaching his end, but these now illustrious names were not attracting any public attention in England. ‘Prometheus Bound’ and ‘Lamia’ had just been received with neglect and derision by the reviewers, who reserved their assiduous respect for two new poets, Bernard Barton and John Clare, the Northamptonshire ploughman. The Quarterly Review, so ‘savage and tartarly’ to the great singers, was enthusiastic in welcoming the descriptive poems of a village minstrel. There raged a fashion

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