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Meet Me in the Green Glen

Daily Poetry Break Commentary by Bob Blair for July 13, 1998

John Clare, born July 13, 1793 was brilliant and uneducated. He lived in poverty and died insane.

We've been talking about simple songs for a while now. My experience is that it takes a lot of effort to make things seem simple. John Clare's work may be an exception, but I doubt it.

Clare was the son of a Northhamptonshire day-labourer. He had no more than a few years' schooling, but he learned to read well, his main text being James Thomspon's The Seasons. There was a vogue for "peasant poets" in the early 1820s, and Clare capitalized on it, publishing three volumes between 1820 and 1827. Unfortunately, they never earned him enough to live on. He lived near starvation until 1837, when he went insane; he remained in an asylum until his death.

Today's poem, Meet Me in the Green Glen, is fairly typical Clare. It is simple -- one might say spare -- tuneful, and rural. I suspect that these bucolic productions, far from being the natural outpouring of the peasant soul, actually involved considerable effort; and that Clare also found the simple hard.

--Bob Blair

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