Poem introduction

John Clare was from the agricultural labouring classes of the early nineteenth century and he was immersed in a culture that was centred on the land and the rhythms of village life and so he had a first-hand intimate knowledge of rural rituals and seasonal customs. But he was never simply asserting the virtues of rural life compared to big urban hell-holes that had sprung up during industrialisation. This poem, 'The Badger', catalogues the badger’s baiting and persecution at the hands of the rural poor, and you realise that the England of the romantic poets was also a very violent place where cock fighting and bull baiting were rife. It’s difficult also not to pick up on Clare’s own identification with a shy and private animal that only wanted to be left alone.

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