Discuss the treatment of environmental ethics and the concerns about the impact of negative or harmful human interactions with nature in the poetry of John Clare.
The poetry of John Clare, who was born in England in the late 1700s as the son of a farmer, documents the end of the open fields and grazing lands and the effect of the Enclosure Acts in England. In his early poems, he writes of the majesty of nature and of humans' responsibility to safeguard it. For example, in "The Nightingale's Nest," he writes, "Hush ! let the wood-gate softly clap, for fear/The noise might drive her from her home of love." He creeps up close to the beautiful nightingale but is cautious not to disturb her.
After the Enclosure Acts of the early 1800s, part of the Industrial Revolution, Clare documents the destruction of the rural lands and the destitution of the people who once depended on the commons to graze their flocks. The Enclosure Acts allowed landowners to fence in lands, including lands that were formerly used as commons, for grazing. In his poem "The Mores," he writes that for centuries, "Nor fence of ownership crept in between/ To hide the prospect of the following eye/Its only bondage was the circling sky." In other words, for centuries, there were no fences or limits on people's enjoyment of nature, save the sky. He writes, "Inclosure came and trampled on the grave/ Of labour's rights and left the poor a slave." In other words, enclosure made the poor enslaved and forced them off the land and into cities in search of work. The countryside as Clare knew it was dead, and his works document his concern with humans' harmful effects on nature.