The life of rural scenery
John Clare observed and described the natural world with an unsurpassed accuracy and intimacy. But his landscapes also bore the memories of life and labour. Like Wordsworth, he sought to create textual objects in transmissible forms, to deliver their reported worlds – expansive, dynamic, somehow inhabitable – to distant readers, drawing them into sympathetic intercommunion with a complex living scene. His intimate descriptive poetry reveals the tangible qualities of light and sound, and the material basis of the apparently abstract concept of time. Memory and imagination are understood to inhabit bodily spaces, provoking ‘real transport’: an observer lost in – and to – the moment. From his place and time, Clare felt solidarity with isolated birds, alienation from labour, estrangement from human communities. Publications such as annuals often showcased formulaic reflections on nature and on memory; Clare exploited textual duplicability, his meditative descriptive poetry spanning the history and futurity of an observed scene.