John Clare: ‘I found the poems in the fields’

2 thoughts on “John Clare: ‘I found the poems in the fields’”

  1. Thanks for this, Gerry. I’ve always loved Clare’s poetry and find it fascinating that a man who obviously had such a love of both nature and words and had the gentleness and imagination to create those wonderful gardens at Burghley House, could also be perceived as so emotionally unbalanced as to afford a place in an asylum. For certain, he had internal sadnesses, perhaps even bouts of depression, but I suspect that for the most part, he was a sensitive man, easily moved to emotion in a world where it was regarded as unfashionable to be such a man.
    In the early ’80’s, I worked for a short time as an artist in residence at a mental hospital, and as I gently unravelleled the stories of some of the oldest residents, I found that some had been placed there for the oddest reasons – they were unable to read, had what would now be seen as simple cognitive disabilities, were disbelieved in a family argument or challenged the religious values they had grown up with (I’ve also mentioned this on my ‘Hypothermia’ post); the criteria for committing someone was very different to today. Further back, in Clare’s time, the medical world trusted the four cholias to make their assessments; I wonder how Clare would be regarded if he lived in today’s society and, moreover, how many of us would be sharing that asylum with him had we been born in earlier times.

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