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Then what is Life?—When stripp'd of its disguise,
A thing to be desir'd it cannot be ;
Gives proof sufficient of its vanity.
To teach unthankful mortal how to prize
Until he's call'd to claim it in the skies.' That the author of such verses (and there are abundance of them) should have continued till the age of twenty-five unfriended and unknown, is less calculated perhaps to excite astonishment, than that devotedness to his art, which could sustain him under the pressure of such evils, and that modesty which shrunk from obtruding his writings on the world. Once, indeed, and once only, he appears to have made an effort to emerge from this cheerless obscurity, by submitting his verses to a neighbour, who, it seems, enjoyed a reputation for knowledge in such matters. Even here his ill-fortune awaited him; and his muse met not only with discouragement but rebuke. The circumstance is however valuable, since it serves to illustrate the natural gentleness of the poet's disposition. Instead of venting his spleen against this rustic Aristarch, he only cleaves to his favourite with greater fondness.
• Still must my rudeness pluck the flower
Oppression's scorn although I be,
Still will I love thee, Poesy.'--p. 124. • Though need make many poets, it was not need that excited Clare to write poetry, though its importunity finally drove biin 'to trust his little bark to the waves. Without a shilling in his pocket, with a father and mother aged and decrepit at home, who rather required his aid than contributed to alleviate his condition, with a frame so feeble by nature, as to sink under the toil to which he had all his life submitted, he at length-and on the impulse of the moment—bethought himself of endeavouring to obtain some small advantage from those mental labours which had at various seasons so deeply engaged his mind. ..I was working alone in the lime-pits, at Ryhall, in the dead of winter, 1818,' these are his own words, 'when knowing it impossible for me to pay a shoemaker's bill of more than three pounds, having only eighteen-pence to receive at night, I resolved upon publishing proposals for printing a little volume of poems by subscription; and at dinner-time I wrote a prospectus, with a pencil,
and walked over to Stamford at night, to send it by the post to Mr. Hanson, a printer at Market Deeping,'. Mr. Hanson had seen some of these poems in manuscript; and it is due to him to say that he was the first who expressed a' favourable.opinion of their merits, and thus induced Clare to venture upon this formidable measure. This prospectus was accordingly published, together with the following Address,' which we give as a sort of literary curiosity.
• The Public are 'requested to observe, that the TRIFLES humbly offered for their candid perusal, can lay no claim to eloquence of poetical composition), (whoever thinks so will be deceived,) the greater part of them being juvenile productions, and those of a later date offsprings of those leisure intervals which the short remittance from hard and manual labour sparingly afforded to compose them. It is hoped that the humble situation which distinguishes their author will be some excuse in their favour, and serve to make an atonement for the many inaccuracies and imperfections that will be found in them. The least touch from the iron band of criticism is able to crush them to nothing. May they be allowed to live their little day, and give satisfaction to those who may chuse to honour them with a perusal, they will gain the end for which they were designed, and their author's wishes will be gratified.'
Booksellers, whether metropolitan or provincial, are, it has been said, rarely deficient in shrewdness. The proposals fell into . the hands of one of the fraternity in Stamford, and suggested to him the probability of the publication affording a profitable speculation. No time was lost in visiting Helpstone; and, for the immediate deposit of a few pounds to meet his present need, and the expectation of receiving a few more at a distant period, Clare was content to abandon his subscription and to part from the volume before us. The original chapman soon, transferred his bargain to the actual publishers, by whom the poems have been given to the world in a manner creditable to themselves, and liberal, we have reason to believe, as to the author.
Looking back upon what we have written, we find we have not accomplished our intention of interspersing with our narrative such extracts as might convey a general character of Clare's poetry,—we have used only such as assorted with the accidents of the poet's life, and the tone of them has necessarily been somewhat gloomy. The volume, however, offers abundant proofs of the author's possessing a cheerful disposition, a mind delighting in the charms of natural scenery, and a heart not to be subdued by the frowns of fortune; though the advantages which he might have derived from these endowments have been checked by the sad realities which hourly reminded him of his unpromising con
dition. Misery herself cannot, however, keep incessant watch over her victims; and it must have been in a happy interval of abstraction from troublesome feelings that Clare composed the Summer Morning,' the result, we believe, of a sabbath-day walk; the lively pictures of rural occupation being introduced from the recollections of yesterday, and the anticipations of the morrow. We have only room for a few stanzas of this little poem,
which is gay, and graceful, possessing the true features of descriptive poetry, in which every object is distinct and appropriate.
• The cocks have now the morn foretold,
The sun again begins to peep,
Unpens and frees the captive sheep.
The sleepy rustic sloomy goes ;
Bemoistening sop his hardened shoes;
leaf that forms a shade,
Stoops, bowing with a diamond drop.
The red round sun advances higher,
Is gilding sweet the village-spire.
Or list the giggling of the brook ;
Peruse and pause on Nature's book,
To entertain our wish'd delay, -
The wakening charms of early day!
While glittering dew the ground illumes,
Their moisture shrinks in sweet perfumes ;
And hear the skylark whistling nigh,
A hailing minstrel in the sky.It will have appeared, in some measure, from our specimens, that Clare is rather the creature of feeling than of fancy. He looks abroad with the eye of a poet, and with the minuteness of a naturalist, but the intelligence which he gains is always referred to the heart; it is thus that the falling leaves become admonishers
and friends, the idlest weed has its resemblance in his own lowly lot, and the opening primrose of spring suggests the promise that his own long winter of neglect and obscurity will yet be succeeded by a summer's sun of happier fortune. The volume, we believe, scarcely contains a poem in which this process is not adopted; nor one in which imagination is excited without some corresponding tone of tenderness, or morality. When the discouraging circumstances under which the bulk of it was composed are considered, it is really astonishing that so few examples should be found of querulousness and impatience, none of envy or despair.
The humble origin of Clare may suggest a comparison with Burns and Bloomfield, which a closer examination will scarcely warrant. Burns was, indeed, as he expresses it,'born to the plough,' but when in his riper years he held the plough it was rather as a master than as a menial. He was neither destitute nor uneducated. Secure from poverty, supported by his kindred, and surrounded by grand and exciting scenery, his lot was lofty and his advantages numerous compared with those of the youth before us. There is almost as little resemblance in their minds. To the pointed wit, the bitter sarcasm, the acute discrimination of character, and the powerful pathos of Burns, Clare cannot make pretension; but he has much of his tender feeling in his serious poetry, and an animation, a vivacity, and a delicacy in describing rural scenery, which the mountain bard has not often surpassed. In all the circumstances of his life, the author of the Farmer's Boy' was far more fortunate than Clare. Though his father was dead, Bloomfield had brothers who were always at his side to cheer and sustain him, while an early residence in the metropolis contributed largely to the extension of his knowledge. To want and poverty he was ever a stranger. Clare never knew a brother; it was his fortune to continue till his twenty-fifth year without education, without hearing the voice of a friend, constrained to follow the most laborious and revolting occupations to obtain the bare necessaries of life. The poetical compositions of the two have few points of contact. The · Farmer's Boy' is the result of careful observations made on the occupations and habits, with few references to the passions of rural life. Clare writes frequently from the same suggestions; but his subject is always enlivened by picturesque and minute description of the landscape around him, and deepened, as we have said, with a powerful reference to emotions within. The one is descriptive, the other contemplative.
A friend of Clare has expressed a doubt of his capacity for the composition of a long poem :-we have no wish that he should make the experiment; but we have an earnest desire that he should be respectable and happy; that he should support a fair name in
poetry, and that his condition in life should be ameliorated. It is with this feeling that we counsel—that we entreat him to continue something of his present occupations ;-to attach himself to a few in the sincerity of whose friendship he can confide, and to suffer no temptations of the idle and the dissolute to seduce him from the quiet scenes of his youth-scenes so congenial to his taste,—to the hollow and heartless society of cities; to the haunts of men who would court and flatter him while his name was new, and who, when they had contributed to distract his attention and impair his health, would cast him off unceremoniously to seek some other novelty. Of his again encountering the difficulties and privations he lately experienced, there is no danger. Report speaks of honourable and noble friends already secured: with the aid of these, the cultivation of his own excellent talents, and a meek but firm reliance on that GOOD POWER by whom these were bestowed, he may, without presumption, anticipate a rich reward in the future for the evils endured in the morning of his life.
Art. IX. 1. De l'Angleterre. Par Monsieur Rubichon. Vol. I.
8vo. Paris. 2. De l'Angleterre. Par Monsieur Rubichon. Vol. II. 1819. OF all the materials
for book-making, it might be thought that those collected in travelling were the most easily obtained. Let a person of plain good sense, improved by a liberal education, and with an unprejudiced mind, set out to ramble over any tract of country inhabited by human creatures; and the probability seems to be, that he will return home with such a store of observations as shall not fail to be instructive and beneficial, and to add to the common stock of truth by which alone the progress of mankind can be made certain.
But, when we consider that those qualities, though far removed from the highest endowment of intellect, are by no means so frequently met with as might be supposed, and that the majority of travellers have a different end in view from the study and observation of men, it will be less surprising that so little real advantage bas accrued from their strictures upon the characters of the nations among whom they have resided.
The most important end of travel, however, that to which all other considerations should converge, is to acquire a knowledge of human beings, and of the modes and institutions by which they have been rendered wiser, happier, and better. Unfortunately, it is not in those parts of the world in which men and their institutions are the most worthy of observation, that they