There is a good John Clare blog which combine extracts from the poems and prose with appropriate images. Some recent posts have been on Clare’s poem ‘The Lament for Swordy Well’ – site of a quarry near Clare’s home which has recently been saved from developers by the Langdyke Trust.
Swordy Well is one of Clare’s special places… it seems inappropriate to use the term ‘landscape’ in connection with poetry so immersed in its subject. In Edwin Paxton Hood’s book The Literature of Labour, published in 1851 when Clare was still living in the Northampton Asylum, it is noted that ‘other poets select a river, or a mountain, and individualise it, but to Clare all are but parts of the same lovely Home, and as every part of the home is endeared – the chair, the shelf, the lattice, the wreathing flower, the fire-place, the table – so is every object in Nature a beloved object, because the whole is beloved.’
One telling example of the way Clare goes beyond other poets in his relationship with the natural world is provided by R. K .R. Thornton, in his introduction to a short anthology of Clare’s verse published by Everyman (1997). Clare is ‘the only poet I know of who would be able to describe the changes in trees not by descriptions of the leaves, not by accounts of the blossom or berries, but by describing changes in the bark.’ Thornton cites as an example ‘Pleasures of Spring’ in which Clare describes the bark of blackthorn darkening, hazels shoots regaining bright freckles and ‘foulroyce’ (dogwood) twigs shining red as ‘stockdoves’ claws.’