O england boasted land of liberty...

[Image: Unenclosed Moor]

It seems a puzzle to many that ‘The Village Minstrel’ failed so spectacularly after the sensational sales of ‘Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery’ just a year before.

However there is a clue to the failure in the lines quoted below.  This might be further clarified by asking two simple questions, “Who benefitted from the Enclosures that impoverished a whole class of worker, the farm labourer”?  and, “Who actually bought books in the 1820s”?

John Clare himself, by being so honest, alienated probably the majority of his intended readership.  Reading verses such as these made them feel very uncomfortable, trenchant criticism of the legal robbery they and their connections had perpetrated, and that, from a social inferior.

Spring more resembles winter now then spring
The shades are banishd all—the birds betook to wing
There once was lanes in natures freedom dropt
There once was paths that every valley wound
Inclosure came & every path was stopt
Each tyrant fixt his sign were pads was found
To hint a trespass now who crossd the ground
Justice is made to speak as they command
The high road now must be each stinted bound
—Inclosure thourt a curse upon the land
& tastless was the wretch who thy existance pland
O england boasted land of liberty
Wi strangers still thou mayst thy title own
But thy poor slaves the alteration see
Wi many a loss to them the truth is known
Like emigrating bird thy freedoms flown
While mongrel clowns low as their rooting plough
Disdain thy laws to put in force their own
& every village owns its tyrants now
& parish slaves must live as parish kings alow

The Village Minstrel (1821)
(lines 1081 – 1101)

Another writer put it this way, “The law itself now became the instrument by which the theft of the people’s land was achieved (...) The parliamentary form of this robbery was to pass Acts for the enclosure of commons; in other words, decrees whereby the great landowners made a present to themselves of the people’s land, which thus became their own private property.  A systematic seizure of communal landed property helped to swell the size of those great farms, which, in the eighteenth century, were called “capital farms” or “merchant farms.”  The writer?  Karl Marx in “Das Kapital”, wonder if he had read Clare?

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