Image by Caroline Forbes

Poem introduction

The poet John Clare, I think, although his reputation has risen in recent years, but certainly for a long time it was much higher among Irish poets than it was among English poets. People know "Poor John Clare" is what he's often called: an early success, and later madness, but I was reading one of John Clare's notebooks; he used to collect tunes, as he said, from the Irish drovers on the road, and he had one tune in his notebook called 'The Self Jig', and a slightly prissy commentator had put a note saying "probably should be 'Sylph'" - that's S Y L P H - as it was obviously going to be a classical Greek reference. So I've used the translation of the word "sylph" that you get in Brewers for this poem. It's a sonnet, as John Clare was so wonderful with sonnets, and is really about the asylum where he spent so many years.

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