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Identity in Place: Lord Byron, John Clare and Lyric Poetry


This essay presents the case that during the later stages of his writing career, John Clare’s poetic voice is developed through an engagement with Lord Byron’s lyric verse, including the Hebrew Melodies but also the lyricised narrative of Don Juan. In particular, it argues that Byron’s precedent enables Clare to articulate a distinctive concern with female figures in faraway places (namely Jerusalem and Greece) and that Byron provides Clare with a way of staging a dramatic lyricism. Byron and Clare have already been the subject of a number of discussions in academic studies, but this essay provides a fresh focus on links between the two poets by concentrating on as yet unexamined thematic, textual and formal parallels in their lyrical verse. The essay makes a case for Byron as a lyricist while attending to some lesser-known lyric poems by Clare that allow readers to see more coherence in Clare’s asylum-period verse than has often been assumed.

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