Alan Bewell, “John Clare and the Ghosts of Natures Past” (pp. 548–578) This essay seeks to read John Clare's poetry in terms of the poetry of exile. Clare directly confronted what it means to lose one's place in the world, to be exiled from a place not because you have left it, but because it has left you. No Romantic poet wrote more passionately than Clare about the joy of experiencing nature in all its immediacy, and no poet argued more strongly for its permanence and continuity across generations, and yet few poets have conveyed in more poignant terms what it means to lose one's nature for good. This paper considers Clare as a poet who writes about what it means to experience the end of nature and to live on long after the nature that one took to be basic to one's life was gone. Although for many people during the nineteenth century such an idea was unthinkable, for many others, especially in colonial contexts, it was a fact of life. Alongside the many new natures that were coming into being at this time, others were being destroyed or utterly changed. Clare's poetry gives us some insight into what it meant to at least one author to survive the death of one's nature.
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