Mike Vickers' Blog

July 15, 2012

John Clare – a poet of a changing landscape

Filed under: In Our Time, Scotland — derryvickers @ 9:46 pm


Not often George Monbiot of the Guardian is sentimental but in the attached article about John Clare he is moving that way:


John Clare a little known poet lived in Helpston 6 miles north of Peterborough at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century.  His poems describe a countryside long gone as we can attest as we discovered Clare while living in Peterborough.  Well, as George says, Clare’s poems also describe the destruction of his landscape by the enclosures and the dispossession of the local people.  It would be interesting to compare Clare’s poems with the slightly earlier and much more famous ones of Robert Burns.

But of course George can’t resist relating the enclosure of the land in Cambridgeshire with the parcelling up and rationalising of the land of the Maasai in East Africa.  George could equally have compared the land enclosure with the Scottish Highland Clearances over a similar period in 19th century.  The Clearances were instigated to bring in sheep whilst the enclosures were to make farming more profitable but in both cases for the benefit of the landlords and not for their tenants.  There was a little despite for the Highland Scots with the introduction of the Crofting Act of 1886 which brought a small degree of land tenure for those crofters who hadn’t been cleared to the colonies and the US.  For those who don’t know, the Crofting Act was to some small degree as a response to the Battle of the Braes on Skye in 1882.

It could just the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments could be persuaded to protect the nomadic life of the Maasai in a modern Battle of the Braes.


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