John Clare (1793-1864) celebrated everything that people's railroading infatuation with progress would destroy. Writing not as an observer of nature, but out of an intimate knowledge of the labourer's life, the wheatfields, hedgerows and ditches of his village in Northamptonshire, Clare produced some of English poetry's most poignant and glorious lyrics. He was a sublimely and obstinately local poet with a fierce sense of social justice.
As enclosures and "improvements" came, dismembering the familiar landscapes, his later poems became infused with a sense of disorientation and loss, and scattered through with broken threads of madness. Clare's genius has been rediscovered by fellow poets in every generation since his death, most recently by Seamus Heaney, praising Clare, "who lived near the abyss but resolved extreme experience into something gentle".