An Outlaw in the Playground

The sense in which Clare is an 'outlaw' is one of perspective rather than law and is bound up with enclosure which, from the farmers' and the landowners' point of view is a fine thing, but 'change the angle of vision, the nature of experience, and the 'never weary plough' provides not wealth but devastation, 'a desert'. And it is, then, the ultimate irony that Clare's own poems themselves become out of bounds.'

Indeed, the reason Clare has been overlooked until recently is because of his being an 'outlaw', speaking with a voice which is not 'English', at least, not in the entirely artificial, literary and culturally orthodox notion of what was and what was not possible for peasant poets to say.

From a review in the
John Clare Society Newsletter No. 27 – March 1990
of England and Englishness
by Prof. John Lucas
Hogarth Press, 1990

The Boy’s Playground
Here lies the germ and happiness of life —
The foot-beat playground of the village boys;
Echo is weary of the rapturous strife,
And almost fades 'neath the excessive noise;
Some race at leap-frog o'er each other's back,
Some chase their shadows in the evening sun,
Some play at hare and hounds, a noisy pack,
Or ‘Duck, duck under water’ shout, and run;
Others at hopscotch try their cautious skill,
Or nine-peg morris cut on grassy hill;
Astraddle upon clapping gates some swee,
Or tie the branches down of willow tree.
A passing-bell scarce makes a deeper sigh
Than the remembrances of days gone by.

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