Notes on John Clare

Adulthood, growing up, yearning for childhood (?)

  • crisis management
  • development of the ego, self-consciousness
    • “shades of the prisonhouse”
  • education, language compartmentalizes the emotions
    • boxing off expressions
    • specification creates distance from the organic experience (ex. the flower being pulled apart)
    • immediacy and energy of the common language
      • known as the “illiterate poet”
    • language creates a gap between words and experience
      • will never be truly enlightening
      • impoverishing, sterilizing
    • giving up control, power that language has creates spirit


  • Wordsworth was innovative but used the same language, Clare created fresh language
  • language as imprisoning, putting the blinders on
  • we privilege our way of communication
  • Clare’s like, be a little less arrogant maybe?
  • Christian belief of human’s sovereignty, despite the objectively terrible humanity of the world
    • shows up again in absurdism
  • Romantics perhaps the first to truly harmonize with nature, animal, and the Earth.
    • tend to ignore the harmony, the good
  • belief is so intrinsically based in language

Shift to the Personal “I”

  • balance between “I” and “us”/”them”
  • goes back to childhood, the development of the “I” without the loss, devaluation of “us”
    • “We Are 7” – nothing is ever lost, the child’s profound bond/belief with lost siblings
  • to name is to possess/own, but that’s tricky
    • do we deserve to know the Truth?



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