In Monday's Guardian, George Monbiot suggested that today ought to be John Clare Day (his birth date in 1793). Well, fine by me, and I'd join any queue to be the first to agree with this. Monbiot's argument is that John Clare was the poet of the environmental crisis – 200 years ago – who showed how the era of greed began with the enclosure of the land.
I read Clare because of his understanding of the natural world and human interaction with it, and because his poetry describes a past world whose echoes you can still feel all around you – if you look – despite enclosures, loss of species (and rural jobs), neo-liberalism (and other evils).
This is JC's Emmonsails Heath in Winter where a bumbarrel is a long-tailed tit.
I love to see the old heath’s withered brake
Mingle its crimpled leaves with furze and ling,
While the old heron from the lonely lake
Starts slow and flaps his melancholy wing,
And oddling crow in idle motions swing
On the half rotten ash tree’s topmost twig,
Beside whose trunk the gipsy makes his bed.
Up flies the bouncing woodcock from the brig
Where a black quagmire quakes beneath the tread,
The fieldfares chatter in the whistling thorn
And for the awe round fields and closen rove,
And coy bumbarrels twenty in a drove
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again.