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‘The Badger’: A Poem by John Clare

How many great poems about badgers are there in English literature? ‘The Badger’, by the criminally underrated English Romantic poet John Clare (1793-1864), is perhaps the greatest of this small and select group. ‘The Badger’ is written in rhyming couplets, also known as ‘heroic couplets’ – and although Clare describes the way the badger is hunted and caught, he imbues the creature with a quiet heroism and nobility. After describing the badger’s appearance and habits, Clare then details how the badger is caught, trapped, and baited.

The Badger

The badger grunting on his woodland track
With shaggy hide and sharp nose scrowed with black
Roots in the bushes and the woods, and makes
A great high burrow in the ferns and brakes.
With nose on ground he runs an awkward pace,
And anything will beat him in the race.
The shepherd’s dog will run him to his den
Followed and hooted by the dogs and men. Read the rest of this entry

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‘The Thunder Mutters’: A Poem by John Clare

John Clare (1793-1864) is still almost criminally underrated as a poet: as a Romantic poet, as a nature poet, and as a great English poet, full stop. ‘The Thunder Mutters’ is a short poem that sees Clare capturing the effect that the rumbling of thunder has upon the natural world.

The Thunder Mutters

The thunder mutters louder & more loud
With quicker motion hay folks ply the rake
Ready to burst slow sails the pitch black cloud
& all the gang a bigger haycock make
To sit beneath—the woodland winds awake Read the rest of this entry

‘The Yellowhammer’s Nest’: A Poem by John Clare

John Clare (1793-1864) is still a rather overlooked figure in English Romanticism and nature poetry, but he’s been called the greatest nature poet in English literature (by his biographer, Jonathan Bate). His poem ‘The Yellowhammer’s Nest’ shows Clare’s wonderful sensitivity to vowel sounds, as he explores the patterns found within nature by focusing on the nest of the bird, which is described as ‘poet-like’.

‘The Yellowhammer’s Nest’ by John Clare

Just by the wooden brig a bird flew up,
Frit by the cowboy as he scrambled down
To reach the misty dewberry—let us stoop
And seek its nest—the brook we need not dread,
’Tis scarcely deep enough a bee to drown,
So it sings harmless o’er its pebbly bed
—Ay here it is, stuck close beside the bank
Beneath the bunch of grass that spindles rank Read the rest of this entry