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The Love Songs and Love Lyrics of Robert Burns and John Clare


The essay argues that John Clare follows the precedent of Robert Burns in writing love poems about a number of different female figures. Burns was a vital and enabling touchstone for Clare in terms of the wit and pathos of his love songs and love lyrics, even as it is often the case that Clare's poems dramatise a painful failure to communicate with these female figures. Poems from across Clare's body of writing are analysed here but particular attention is paid to his later verse: it is during this period that we see some of his most skilful imitations of Burns's vocabulary and voice. The two poets are, furthermore, contextualised through a consideration of some of Clare's prose statements about Burns and about a wider Scottish tradition of song. The essay is one of the first sustained comparisons of the poems of Burns and Clare, and the readings of the texts in question show that Burns's work also gave Clare a model for combining song and lyric in distinctive kinds of ways.

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