All of my life I have assumed that when a poet writes about nature, he/she is just winging it. To me, “…As trod the crimson twilight’s face…” is just a pleasant concatenation brewed in a dark basement by a moody wordsmith. It’s delightful to learn that some poets actually describe their environment with details that a keen sleuth can turn into a biodiversity record that indicates the decline of the Red-shanked Carder. Thanks, Jeff Ollerton, for your post. It was enjoyed! And now it’s shared…
Prof. Jeff Ollerton - ecological scientist and author
John Clare is one of the most celebrated English poets of rural landscapes and nature in the 19th century. To quote his biographer, Clare was “the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature”. Not only that, he was born and lived for much of his life in my adopted county, hence his epithet as “The Northamptonshire Peasant Poet”.
One of his less well-known poems is called Wild Bees and is a stunning example of Clare’s ability to make detailed observations of the natural world and to translate those observations into poetry. So good are those observations that, as I show below, it’s possible to identify Clare’s bees from the descriptions he gives. First of all, here’s the full poem:
These children of the sun which summer brings
As pastoral minstrels in her merry train
Pipe rustic ballads upon busy wings
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