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Yu Rong Teng (LP)

John Clare - Essay

A critic has described Clares poetry as poetry of loss. How far for you agree with this statement? In
your answer, you should refer to two or three poems in detail, or range widely through the selection.
One could deem Clares poetry as the poetry of loss perhaps because of Clares extensive references
to both regret and grief. Yet others may be critical of this view suggesting that his poems may have been written
from a celebratory perspective.
Clare inherently expresses his grief for the loss of his girlfriend Mary Joyce in a multitude of poems
perhaps to seek comfort and acceptance through his literature. As his first love, Marys family did not believe
that Clare was worthy to seek companionship in their daughter and thus, stimulated the demise of the pairs
relationship. Although Clare was never married to Mary, the nature of his poetry, such as that of First Loves
Recollections encapsulates, the essence of his lost love for Mary, who is also characterized as Clares muse
for his literature. The meticulous descriptions of the natural environment in the poem are implicative of his
yearning for what remains in his memory of her. A stranger perhaps, as he only has impressions (which)
linger on, due to her inexistence in Clares life. Mary is suggested to be to be a moments memory through
Clares use of alliteration, which reflects the brusqueness of the nature of his relationship with her. However the
use of this poetic device could also further imply the recurrence of the vivid recollections that he so often has.
Juxtaposition between the time periods of past and present can also be observed in First Loves Recollections;
of which correspond to Clares present feelings of desolation, contrasting with his reflections upon his earlier
and happier life with Mary, as in the poem he describes of an occasion where the world and nature seemed to be
blessed with a fervent love as the world smiled upon (his) lays.
It is possible to suggest that First Loves Recollections is also a celebration of love in its own right
because it brings the readers attention to lifes imperfections and the way in which we can revere them in the
same way Clare does with Mary. Although their relationship did not work out, Clare is glad that at least it
happened, and relates his feelings of loss to one that is natural, as such feelings come with time and change
and this is emphasized by tolerance of his grief with the more prevalent impressions of acceptance. Clares use
of personification further attempts to bridge the gap between mankind and nature, and thus perception and
existence; as in First Loves Recollections the poet is able to convey loves poignant persistence and joys first
dreams despite Marys lingering presence in Clares mind. The allusion to the seasons, is clever as Clare allows
for the images of change to develop in the readers thoughts through depictions of natures own struggle to
move on; in particular Summers will to (leave) the stems behind of which perhaps indicates that loss and lost
love is simply naturalistic of life. The Flitting, another poem of Clares also explores holding onto something
distant as a result of time and change as he writes about loss of a past life and is reminiscent of the way things
do not regress back to their original states when the heart goes far away.
The Flitting, not only deals with loss on a personal level; as he describes of his loss of faith in mankind
due to its contributions towards the destruction of the natural environment and as a result the loss of feeling and
happy memories that he once had as a child, inferred from the phrase, time will change and friends must part.
The emphasis that Clare delivers on the word must could signify his feelings of regret as he describes the loss
that society imparts when nature is loss to the frigid laws of enclosure in the early 1800s and the impact of the
resultant process of urbanization as people like Clare are no longer able to own the spot no more. Perhaps
from ones first reading of The Flitting, it can quickly be inferred from the title itself, that Clare is suggestive of
something that has escaped, and now gone like that of his youth. The turbulent rhythm, which can be observed
in Clares long poem, advocates the poets overwhelming loss and could symbolize his sobbing as he writes it.
To an extent, The Flitting can be described as an accusation on mankind of the impact that urban sprawl has had
upon the individuals, as it is the sheer carelessness of the malice and ignorance individuals who were not
aware of effects that their actions were having upon other people. From direct influences such as urban
affectation, Clare no longer finds comfort in the life of rural simplicity as he feels like a stranger in a foreign
land. Critics have also related this loss of comfort in his life to his degrading mental wellbeing whereby mental
instability led him to be admitted into an asylum in his later years.

Yu Rong Teng (LP)


John Clare - Essay

Beneath the poets tone of melancholy and sadness, it can be suggested in a similar way to that of First
Loves Recollections - that the factors the play out in life are not reversible and whereby life moves on, it is
only the memory that remains so we should hold onto these. Although The Flitting is undermined by the poets
discomfort over the reminiscence of his past life, he also illustrates his own personal acceptance and satisfaction
of his identity. Clares overriding technique is the embedding of multiple vocalities throughout his poetry: most
notably the voices of a didactic, observer, narrator and poet. Particularly in The Flitting does Clare adopt the
voice of the storyteller, whereby through his narrative, is able to portray abstract concepts such as that of love
into authentic personas encouraging a greater level of empathy towards both nature and the poet himself. He
is also an observer of nature in this poem as his thorough use of similes and metaphors, such as memory
lingers around the heart giving the impression that the memories of his childhood still remain to remind himself
of home because it will forever be internalized in ones heart. This belief is further iterated in the last segment
of the extract of Clares long poem, The Parish. The popular saying the lottery of life can be used in
discussion, as an individuals social class is dependent upon his or her fate. In The Parish, fate holds her way
and rarely draws suggesting that there is no predicament of ones fate and this will always result in an
imparting inequality in life regardless of ones position on the social scale. It is the idea of fortunes great
lottery that is developed in Clares poetry, stating that the inequity of life determines our identities and Clare
convinces his readers to embrace our heritage and ensure ourselves to overcome external influences such as that
of modernization and urban affectation and refrain from self-indulgence, and only then can we, too find
satisfaction in our present lives.
Clares convictive narratives in The Parish highlight the effects of urban sprawl, enclosure and
materialism. Urban sprawl constricts both society and an individuals freedom as it pressurizes individuals such
as Clare to convene to societys materialistic values. The poets radical outlook on the parish is stressed by his
use of regular rhyming couplets in the poem, of which highlight the differences between those in the Parish and
yet sheds light upon their similarities as well, namely gluttony and pride. The Parish is one of Clares more
unique poems as although he undermines those who have lost their identities to materialistic values he emulates
a style similar to Britains most famous satirists, Alexander Pope. Clare follows Popes example of the
Dunciad whereby in each of the extracts five segments, are five distinct individuals who Clare cautions the
readers, and insinuates his anger towards their deceitful personalities through the embodiment of both caesuras
and enjambement. He further emphasizes his general criticism and resentment of the change from the old to
new way of life, as well as the hypocrisy and nepotistic modern values that individuals hold. The poet
deprecates modernization because the new parish system no longer follows rural traditions, and Clare asserts his
belief in the growing inequity and unreasonable bias that society has adopted in perceiving those who are not
affected by the influences of modernization, and thus freedom in ones beliefs. Apart from Clares explicit
attitudes of criticism towards an upwardly mobile societys pretentions, it can be suggested that his
condemnations are to an extent founded upon incomprehension and reluctance to adapting to modern ways.
Rural simplicity is replaced with something that can be portrayed as unnatural as in the second segment of the
Parish, Clare, as a traditionalist, describes of a Lord who sells his oak table in order to purchase, the more
visually appealing rows of pewter, symbolizing perhaps how socialites metaphorically sold their roles to
modernization.
The loss of ones freedom is also explored in Clares poem, The Flitting a pleasant rural environment,
a place in which the poet knows and finds comfort in is juxtaposed with attitudes of urban affectation and
highflown fangled things somewhere Clare feels like a foreigner in. However, it is the textual subjectivity in
Clares poems, which leave it open to interpretation. From a Marxist perspective, one could argue that Clare
strongly condemns modern values due to societal inequity, however he is also vaguely reminiscent of a past life
in rural simplicity. He is perhaps celebrating rural life in these poems as in The Flitting, he is writes about the
feelings of solitude and happiness that he used to find in nature, implied by his recurrent accounts of the
minutiae he finds such as the molehills and rabbit tracks of which now is replaced with envy and malice.
The synonymous relationship that Clare shares with nature in his poetry encapsulates the loss of nature
and the socio-political context of enclosure during Clares time. For example, the repetition of the word sweet
in The Flitting attempts to identity the sweetness of the natural environment, however with the poets decreased

Yu Rong Teng (LP)


John Clare - Essay

used in alliteration and use of repetition in the later parts of the poem, is can be suggested that Clare no longer
believes that this sweetness and beauty no longer exists. However, in the same way that Clares memory of
Mary pervades in First Loves Recollections, the poets predicament is similar too in that although he feels like
a slave to modernity and an outcast from the rural environment, he recognizes that nature will persist in the
same way that memory does. Although it can be said that Mary was Clares first love, I beg to differ, as Clares
first true love is that of nature, as he is deeply saddened of its loss. Clares attitude of regret and loss is adopted
throughout First Loves Recollections until the last stanza whereby he states fate like this oft befell,
suggesting how nature itself has its imperfections, just like that of man kind because there are always going to
be buds that can neer grow flowers. Through Clares didactic eco-criticism we could perhaps insinuate that
Clares loss of poetic inspiration and natures beauty is a result of social pretentiousness and selfish deeds such
as the enclosure act, highlighted in The Parish.
Indeed it can be agreed that poetry of loss is a suitable defining term for Clares poetry as he deals
with loss if not explicitly in his poems, implicitly through loss on a personal and socio-economic level. And it is
this consistent theme of loss, which can be found throughout every one of Clares poems, perhaps, allowing for
a greater level of engagement and empathy on the readers behalf into the poets work.