Cowper, Wordsworth, Clare: The Politics of Trees,
by Tim Fulford (The Nottingham Trent University)



From The John Clare Society Journal, no. 14 (1995), pp. 47-59.
(c) Tim Fulford /The John Clare Society


Clare's 'To a Fallen Elm' has been recognized as one of his best poems, one still powerful in the way it develops a discourse of political protest from a personal response to a local landscape. In this article I want to read the poem in two related contexts. One is that of the poetry of Cowper (in particular 'Yardley Oak') and the politics of nature articulated by that poetry. Clare, I shall suggest, can be seen like Wordsworth to have been sharing Cowper's concerns and developing his language - a point sometimes neglected by critics of Wordsworth who overlook both Cowper and Clare in their discussions of Romanticism. The other context in which I shall place Clare's poem is that of debates about the need for a form of government capable of securing liberty. Both radical opponents and conservative defenders of Britain's unreformed constitution employed nature-imagery to render their arguments appealing. Trees figured prominently in that imagery: their longevity, rootedness and strength made them suitable emblems for writers who portrayed an ancient constitution capable of gradual change as a growth of English soil. Edmund Burke depicted Britain's form of government as tree-like, of ancient growth: it 'moves on through the varied tenour of perpetual decay, fall, renovation and progression' in 'the method of nature'. (1) Burke was opposed by Thomas Paine and other radicals who employed the political iconography of the French Revolution, in which the Liberty tree was an emblem of the new growth possible once ancient injustices had been uprooted. (2) Like an oak Burke's constitution was organic, time honoured, slow to change and grow, protective of the subjects who sheltered beneath it. Wordsworth characterized Burke himself as an oak tree, acknowledging the power of his symbol as an anti-revolutionary naturalization of conservative politics:

I see him, - old, but vigorous in age,
Stand like an oak whose stag-horn branches start
Out of its leafy crown, the more to awe
The younger brethren of the grove . . .
While he forewarns, denounces, launches forth,
Against all systems built on abstract rights,
Keen ridicule; the majesty proclaims
Of Institutes and Laws, hallowed by time;
Declares the vital power of social ties
Endeared by Custom; and with high disdain,
Exploding upstart Theory, insists
Upon the allegiance to which men are born. (3)

Wordsworth wrote this tribute in his later years when a political supporter of his patron, the landowner and political magnate Lord Lowther.

Landowners and conservative moralists exploited the political symbolism of trees in an attempt to show liberty to be more truly rooted in the British constitution than in the French Revolution. Uvedale Price, the Whig squire and theorist of the picturesque, put such ideas into practice. He designed his estate at Foxley as a display of paternalism. Cottagers were not cleared from his park but included within it, their rustic dwellings sheltered by the oak and ash trees which Price spent his life planting. His tenants were visibly under his protection in a symbolic ordering of the real landscape which emphasized that order and liberty depended upon the mutual duties owed by rich and poor. (4) Price's fellow theorist Richard Payne Knight, also a Herefordshire Whig squire, both planted oaks and poeticized about their political significance. He portrayed the oak tree as a symbol of a constitutional British monarch paternally sheltering lesser trees grouped around it: 'Then Britain's genius to thy aid invoke/ And spread around the rich, high-clustering oak:/ King of the woods!' The cedar by contrast was shown to resemble an Eastern despot, destroying everything in its shade. (5)

For traditionalist moralists the greatest danger to Britain's parliamentary monarchy lay in the landowning classes themselves. If they abandoned their paternalist care for their country estates the basis of their legitimacy - their claim that they represented the people - would be undermined. Discussion of landscape, and of tree-felling in particular, became a thinly coded way of recalling the gentry to its duty so as to prevent the further spread of disaffection amongst the labouring classes. In his Moral Contrasts: Or, The Power of Religion Exemplified Under Different Characters (1798) the clergyman and picturesque theorist William Gilpin wrote a parable of two young men who inherit country estates. One, Leigh, squanders his inheritance remodelling his park, abuses his servants, drinks and gambles and ends in failure rejected when he stands for election to parliament. The message is clear: gentlemen who renounce their paternalist duties deserve to lose their power to represent the people. Leigh's tyranny is symbolized in a style of landscape improvement that ignores the local history and geography of the estate. Ancient trees are wantonly cut down, hills removed. On the other hand Willoughby, the dutiful squire, makes no hasty alterations, having resolved 'never to fight with nature'. He works with the social landscape he has inherited too, employing local labour only when it can be spared from the farms, personally paying allowances to the children of deserving tenants, ensuring that cottagers' rents remained fair and that their dwellings remained within 'the precincts of his park'. (6) Similarly Southey, admirer of Burke and editor of Cowper (responsible for the publication of 'Yardley Oak'), claimed the order of the nation to depend on men 'whose names and families are older in the country than the old oaks upon their estates'.(7) In the England of 1814 in which bad harvests and enclosure had further impoverished the rural poor, Jane Austen criticized extravagant and foolish landowners in similar terms. In Mansfield Park Fanny Price cites Cowper as she quietly questions whether Rushworth's intended destruction of an avenue of trees to make way for a fashionably remodelled park is proper: 'Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fate unmerited'. Her taste (and that of Cowper's The Task) is vindicated: she marries a gentleman-clergyman determined to protect the landscape and the parishioners under his care. (8)

In the charged political atmosphere of the 1790s and 1820s, with alarm over possible rebellion by the labouring classes gripping landowners and ministry, quiet repair of the landscapes of paternalism seemed to many to be insufficiently repressive. Price and Knight found themselves accused of Jacobinism for advocating a degree of wildness in landscape gardening. Cowper, Clare and Wordsworth had greater reason to be jacobinical: each was a victim of the power of landowners. Each suffered from the destruction of a familiar landscape by owners who were seeking greater agricultural efficiency in order to increase profits. Like the labourers driven by such destruction towards rebellion, they protested. They did so in poetry which made sophisticated use of the real loss endured as the local landscape was drastically altered. Cowper and Clare in particular employed the symbolic value traditionally placed upon trees to give their evocations of familiar scenes political implications. They were able to turn traditional tree-symbolism against those who benefited from it. The sheltering oak had been used to naturalize landowners' monopoly of power. Oaks had symbolized the independence given by landownership, an independence landowners claimed to use to secure Britons' liberty in Parliament. Oaks symbolized the shelter which that independent authority afforded to the weak - the landless labourers under the paternalist eye of the squire. Cowper and Clare, showing trees cut down by landowners in the name of taste or profit, depict this paternalist rhetoric as a sham. As landowners are revealed to be paternalists in name only, the legitimacy of their constitutional power is questioned. And at the same time the poet's own relationship with the trees is shown to be far closer and more complex: he (and, vicariously, the reader) is made a more rightful possessor of the land because he is more familiar with it. The poet's understanding of value, based on a lived history of local knowledge, is made to supersede that of the landowner's, which is shown to be commercial, based on greed. The poems thus suggest that freedom lies elsewhere than in the language and the actions of those who claim to uphold the nation's liberty.

A gentleman who had retreated from public life, Cowper found in the landscapes of Buckinghamshire the virtues he had sought and failed to find in polite society. They were for him places from which order, morality, even love could be derived when it could not from the actions of gentlemen. They became a foundation of Cowper's self, essential standing-grounds as the only places in which God's order seemed to exist. They were essential to his poetry too, since only by description of them could he find a language properly rooted in virtue. Once in possession of that language he could call upon his fellow gentry to purify themselves, their language (the corruption of which in Church, Law, and Parliament he attacked) and the society they governed. Cowper's retreat to the rural margins gave him great critical authority. It also left him vulnerable: like a hermit his choice of seclusion, relative poverty and powerlessness exposed him to many of the dangers usually only experienced by the rural poor. Whilst his capacity to suffer these dangers increased his moral authority it also pushed him - like Clare later - towards madness. As Cowper saw his beloved landscape destroyed by fellow gentlemen in the name of the national order they claimed to uphold (and from which they benefited disproportionately) he not only lost the ground on which his identity was paced and measured but also lost his faith in the capacity of gentlemen (however he exhorted them) to uphold the virtues for which a gentleman was supposed to stand.

In July 1785 a local landowner felled trees, removed scrub, and re-organized as an orderly plantation a wood near Olney through which had run one of Cowper's favourite walks. He mourned for its loss in terms that make of the picturesque glade a sanctuary of spiritual community shared between Cowper and his domestic circle:

myself that I will never enter it again. We have both pray'd in it. You for me, and I for you, but it is desecrated from this time forth, and the voice of pray'r will be heard in it no more. The fate of it in this respect, however deplorable is not peculiar; the spot where Jacob anointed his pillar, and which is more apposite, the spot once honoured with the presence of Him who dwelt in the bush, have long since suffer'd similar disgrace, and are become common ground. (9)

This letter tries to locate the holy language of prayer in particularly loved scenes. Rural beauty, it implies, is sacramental, an earthly form in which spiritual presence can be encountered. Despoilation of nature is made to seem sacreligious. And despoilation also threatens the self. Cowper proclaims that he will never enter the wood again, heralding the growing sense of exile from God that led him to despair and insanity. The letter is prophetic in that it predicts the form of this exile - a gradual exclusion from the only landscapes in which he could discover spiritual meaning. This exclusion is evident in the change from the 'Olney hymns' with their awed discovery of God's 'mysterious ways' in nature, to 'The Castaway', in which nature is represented by the undifferentiated desert of the sea. A named local landscape is replaced by a sea in which the only refuge is that of the 'deeper gulphs' in which Cowper imagines and wishes himself drowned. Destruction of rural beauty threatens Cowper's selfhood with the loss not just of a place of security but of the very ground on which its ability to discover a language of redemption depends. To lose a familiar and therefore meaningful landscape is also to lose a saving language.

In The Task Cowper takes up arms against the despoilation of rural refuges, transforming his anger at the loss of his own sylvan retreat into an indictment of the political values and cultural fashions of his contemporary Britain. He views the removal of woodland as a symptom of the triumph in the nation of commercial greed over traditional paternalism:

Mansions once
Knew their own masters; and laborious hinds
Who had surviv'd the father, serv'd the son.
Now the legitimate and rightful lord
Is but a transient guest, newly arriv'd,
And soon to be supplanted. He that saw
His patrimonial timber cast its leaf,
Sells the last scantling, and transfers the price
To some shrewd sharper, ere it buds again.
Estates are landscapes, gaz'd upon a while,
Then advertis'd, and auctioneer'd away. (10)

For Cowper such a gaze is exploitative and it uproots not only the trees but the landowning classes, to their own detriment and that of the rural society of which they had been masters. They are lost to gambling and luxury; it is without government or care. Richard Feingold comments 'in the new polity of power and wealth ... the moral basis of politics is destroyed along with the old order of society because the former guardians also now join in the new riot of luxury'. (11) Cowper reveals the hollowness of the ideals of gentlemanliness that such men claimed to embody and so attacks the authority of the ruling class by undermining its ideology.

It is in 'Yardley Oak' that Cowper best fuses the personal with the public. He wrote this poem after reading Burke's defence of the constitution in Reflections on the Revolution in France. And he responds to the symbolic use Burke had made of the oak as he derives a political and moral sermon from the tree. He gains the authority necessary to sermonize because he is close enough to the particular named tree to make it a measure of himself. In speaking solemnly to it he speaks his own being, finding his own vulnerability and decrepitude in its decayed trunk:

Survivor sole, and hardly such, of all
That once liv'd here thy brethren, at my birth
(Since which I number three-score winters past)
A shatter'd veteran, hollow-trunk'd perhaps
now, and with excoriate forks deform,
Relict of ages! (12)

The tree is then made an object of worship, a living monument to a shared sense of common ancestry, a totem rooting poet and readers into the English past: 'It seems idolatry with some excuse/ When our forefather Druids in their oaks/ Imagin'd sanctity' (ll. 9-11).

The poem's style is Miltonic, biblical. Cowper addresses the tree as 'Thou', risking bathetic disproportion between diction and subject-matter in an effort to convey the religious awe he feels at the sublime oak. By so doing he is able to turn a local description into musings on the common fate of all nature in the post-Edenic world - Death. The oak's slow growth and slower decline make it a humbling reminder of mankind's greater vulnerability to time. It is a funerary monument, a living Death-in-nature. It is also a political symbol. Hollow, aged yet 'still erect' (l.119) it stands for England - diseased by corruption yet sustained by its rootedness in history:

So stands a kingdom, whose foundations yet
Fail not, in virtue and in wisdom laid,
Though all the superstructure, by the tooth
Pulveriz'd of venality, a shell . . .
(ll. 120-23)

Cowper speaks on its behalf for an organic constitution, ancient and slow to grow and change - unlike the sudden innovations of the French revolution. Yet unlike Burke's, Cowper's Whig tree stands against a policy of war:

But the axe spar'd thee; in those thriftier days
Oaks fell not, hewn by thousands, to supply
The bottomless demands of contest wag'd
For senatorial honours.
(ll. 100-103)

Here to waste the nation's trees is both to squander its men and to endanger the oak-like constitution upon which its independence has historically been based. Cowper's lines contrast with Pope's 'Windsor Forest' in which oaks are resources for the navy by which Britain's commercial and imperial dominance would be achieved. Cowper's oak is a critique of public policy as well as a monument to shared Englishness and an object through which the inevitability of decay and death is brought home to the poet.

From this public verse the poem returns to troublingly personal images of dismemberment; 'Thine arms have left thee. Winds have rent them off . . . ' (l.125). It ends by placing the tree and fallen man, crippled and vulnerably mortal, in opposition to Adam in Eden. Adam was moulded at once, not subject to time or Death. His language exactly named the new-created world:

survey'd
All creatures, . . . assign'd
To each his name significant, and fill'd
With love and wisdom, render'd back to heav'n
In praise harmonious the first air he drew
(ll. 173-78)

Adam's paradise is one of security and exactitude. It is a paradise of language in which words not only fit things precisely but are a gift given to God in return for the gift of breath. It is a paradise too fragile to be sustained, watched by 'History' and 'Time' - and by Cowper, whose poem fades into uncompleted silence at this point. His own text, like the oak which he resembles, is dismembered, lacking a resolving conclusion. It, like the tree and all in the post-Edenic world, is shown to be acutely vulnerable to loss. Outside Eden language like the oak and the man who speaks of it is felled by the consequences of the first fall - Sin, Death and Time.

In 'Yardley Oak' Cowper's landscape-poetry becomes not simply a protest at the destruction of landscape (and lives) by men of political ambition; it becomes an exemplification of the human fragmentation that occurs when all available linguistic sources of moral reparation have been destroyed. Faced by a landscape and a culture in which he finds decay, Cowper finds no compensating 'strength in what remains behind' in his own imagination (as does Wordsworth in the 'Immortality' ode). In 'Yardley Oak' - as in Clare's poetry - it is the lack of a unifying and resolving language, the loss rather than the discovery of a coherent self that is effective. And it is effective politically: rather than simply preaching about social evils Cowper makes readers experience their cost as a linguistic dislocation. Description can memorialize but not compensate for the tree's decay, for the cultural corruption it symbolizes and for the self left by that corruption without faith in the contemporary language of public life. Cowper's influence on Wordsworth was profound. Wordsworth wrote 'Yew Trees' after reading 'Yardley Oak'. (13) This poem displaces the poet's voice into that of the trees which become, as in Cowper, monuments that show nature to be a living death. Here Wordsworth is not the sublime egotist recoiling from nature who is praised by many Romantic critics.

There is a Yew-tree, pride of Lorton Vale,
Which to this day stands single, in the midst
Of its own darkness, as it stood of yore:
Not loth to furnish weapons for the bands
Of Umfraville or Percy ere they marched
To Scotland's heaths; or those that crossed the sea
And drew their sounding bows at Azincour,
Perhaps at earlier Crecy, or Poictiers.
Of vast circumference and gloom profound
This solitary Tree! a living thing
Produced too slowly ever to decay;
Of form and aspect too magnificent
To be destroyed. (14)

The poem turns the local tree into a patriotic symbol, into a guarantor of the deep-rooted and thus enduring strength of Englishness. The references to Agincourt were significant in a period of war with Napoleonic France.

Wordsworth's patriotic vision of the English landscape owed much to Cowper. So too did Clare's and he acknowledged Cowper as an influence on his political verse. His 'England my countrey mong evils enthralling,' takes Cowper's 'England with all thy faults I love thee still' as its epigraph. (15) Like Cowper, Clare assures readers of his loyalty to England before venturing to criticize its faults and injustices. The 'Lines on "Cowper"' acknowledge the debt by idealizing the poet of The Task as the kind of poet Clare wished to be. (16) He 'found the muse on common ground' (l. 2). His songs 'share the peoples talk' (l. 7). Most importantly his voice is present in nature, articulate in its motions:

Birds sing his name on every bough
Nature repeats it in the wind

And every place the Poet trod
And every place the Poet sung
Are like the holy land of God
In every Mouth on every tongue
(ll. 23-28)

Here Cowper is shown to have sanctified nature; his words like those of scripture are alive because they are a shared part of common speech - written become oral. It is a powerful tribute, poetic justice for a poet whose own linguistic identity fractured and fell into silence.

Clare possessed several editions of Cowper's poetry. He also possessed a selection of verse which included the posthumously published 'Yardley Oak'. (17) And his 'To a Fallen Elm' develops a politics of nature similar to Cowper's poem. It too was prompted by the threatened loss of actual trees. Clare protested in a letter which his publisher Taylor subsequently included in his introduction to The Village Minstrel.

My two favourite elm trees at the back of the hut are condemned to die - it shocks me to relate it, but 'tis true. The savage who owns them thinks they have done their best, and now he wants to make use of the benefits he can get from selling them. O was this country Egypt, and was I but a caliph, the owner should lose his ears for his arrogant presumption; and the first wretch that buried his axe in their roots should hang on their branches as a terror to the rest. I have been several mornings to bid them farewel. (18)

In this letter Clare suggests that he had an individual, almost human, relationship with the trees. He opposes this relationship ('bid them farewel') to that of the 'owner' which is defined by profit. In the poem itself this opposition is used tactically: Clare aligns his relationship with that of birds and children, the owner's with that of men who seek money and power at others' cost. The elm is made a landmark for a community: 'The children sought thee in thy summer shade' (l. 23). It is a bastion against the hostile world, protecting Clare's cottage 'like a friend' (l. 12). In a line Cowperian in its intimation of insecurity Clare makes the elm's rooted strength a source of reassurance: 'It seasoned comfort to our hearts desire' (l. 11). Here seasoned is the crucial word: in a complex image Clare uses it as a transitive verb referring to the seasoning of food: like honey the elm's 'sweetest anthem' turned a domestic retreat into a comfort to be enjoyed (l. 2). And he also suggests another more unorthodox meaning - that it was the elm's seasoned timber, strong through its growth through many seasons, that strengthened with comfort those who had known the tree through many seasons (and known themselves by dwelling in its shade).

Clare makes the tree a selfmark as well as a landmark. He describes himself in words normally applicable to it and it in words normally applicable to himself: 'Thou ownd a language by which hearts are stirred/ Deeper than by the attribute of words/ Thine spoke a feeling known in every tongue' (ll. 31-33). As in the 'Lines on "Cowper"' the poet's communication (and this poem is a conversation with the tree) is grounded on his perception of an inarticulate language of nature - a truly Wordsworthian perception.

Yet Clare does not develop this perception into a discovery of the sublimity of the poet's mind. Instead he moves like Cowper in a political direction. He attacks the men who were changing the landscape in the cause of improved farming. But his poem is also charged with the tension these changes produced in Clare himself: he knew that the literary form in which he wrote would be associated with the gentlemanly classes who organized agricultural 'improvement'. His local patron Lord Radstock demanded that he suppress poems that displayed 'radical slang'. (19) His gentlemanly readership wanted a peasant who could respond with sensitivity to natural beauty, not one who developed that response into political protest. Clare protested nevertheless and made the hypocrisy of contemporary discourse his subject as Cowper had done.

Thoust heard the knave abusing those in power
Bawl freedom loud and then oppress the free
Thoust sheltered hypocrites in many a shower
That when in power would never shelter thee
Thoust heard the knave supply his canting powers
With wrongs illusions when he wanted friends
That bawled for shelter when he lived in showers
(ll. 41-47)

'To a Fallen Elm' is a narrative of imprisonment. Like Cowper in 'Yardley Oak' Clare reveals in it his sense of being trapped in corrupted languages: the elm, for all its strong indifference to the 'wrongs illusions' it hears cannot survive their power to effect change; nor, therefore, can the heart-stirring language 'deeper than . . . the attribute of words' which the poet derives from it. And neither the cant of popular agitators nor the language of gentlemen with its self-serving justification of the tree-felling can be trusted. Neither is adequate to the needs of the self for a verbal source of truth and honesty. Yet neither can be avoided. Clare's literary form aligns him willynilly with gentlemen patrons, his status as a rural labourer with popular agitators ('knave[s] abusing those in power'). And since the ancient trees he so loved were being felled, he no longer had a home ground, a piece of England from which he could derive himself and for which he could speak with an untainted authority of love. He did have a tradition of radical invective at his disposal; the angry rhetoric of the poem's attack on enclosure borrows from that republican enemy of the monarchical constitution, Milton - as Wordsworth and Coleridge also did in their radical verse. (20) And yet, as Peter J. Kitson has argued of radical rhetoric in the late 1790s, Clare's words are imbued with the expectation of defeat by the words and deeds of men of power. (21) Neither the heart-stirring murmuring of the elm (the inarticulate language of nature) nor the Miltonic jeremiads of radical tradition will deflect the 'force of might' and the hypocritical language used to justify that force (l.54). Clare anticipates a linguistic as well as physical destruction, a mental as well as agricultural enclosure:

Such was thy ruin music making Elm
The rights of freedom was to injure thine
As thou wert served so would they overwhelm
In freedoms name the little that is mine
(ll. 65-68)

In face of the power of a perverted language in which 'wrong was right and right was wrong' (l.63) Clare can protest but cannot win. His own source of verbal and moral authority may remain, but it is likely to be obscured by the overwhelming language of men of power - left to speak for a landscape and community that no longer exist. The experienced meaning of freedom will, in the poem's last grim phrase, be devoured in 'freedom's' name.

On the evidence of these three 'tree poems' Clare's and Cowper's politics of nature are more troubling than Wordsworth's. Although all three poets treat a local landscape as a testing-ground for the state of the nation, Clare and Cowper dramatize loss and destruction without a compensatory discovery of a remaining power and unity in their own minds. They reveal in their tree-poems what Coleridge revealed with terrible force in 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' - the appalling fragmentation of language and meaning that results from the destruction of an interpretible landscape on which the self is founded. Theirs is a kind of poetry in which language is left on the point of breakdown and the poet at the edge of madness rather than one of sublime egotism. It is one in which the poetry of retirement, political protest and the traditional symbolism attached to landscape fuse. It is one transformed by Cowper's and Clare's ability to find a language able to anticipate its own destruction, to prophesy its own silence. It operates according to an aesthetics of weakness - an intimation of loss, dismemberment and oblivion rather than immortality.

Tim Fulford (The Nottingham Trent University)

From The John Clare Society Journal, no. 14 (July 1995)

(c) Tim Fulford /The John Clare Society


NOTES

1. Reflections on the Revolution in France, ed. Conor Cruise O'Brien (1982), p, 120.
2. See William Ruddick, 'Liberty trees and loyal oaks: emblematic presences in some English poems of the French Revolutionary period', in Alison Yarington and Kelvin Everest (eds.), Reflections of Revolution: Images of Romanticism (London and New York, 1993), pp. 59-67.
3. The Prelude 1799, 1805, 1850, ed. Jonathan Wordsworth, M.H. Abrams, Stephen Gill (New York and London, 1979), VII, 519-30.
4. On Price see Stephen Daniels, 'The Political Iconography of Woodland in Later Georgian England', in Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels (eds.), The Iconography of Landscape (Cambridge, 1980), pp. 43-82 (pp. 61, 79).
5. Knight, The Landscape, 2nd edn. (1795); pp.72, 75.
6. Moral Contrasts, pp. 38, 42.
7. Essays, Moral and Political, 2 vols. (1832), I, 11-12.
8. Mansfield Park, ed. Tony Tanner (1985), p. 87. For the quotation see The Task, I, 338-40.
9. The Letters and Prose Writings of William Cowper, ed. James King and Charles Ryskamp, 5 vols. (Oxford, 1979-86), II, 362-63.
10. The Task 1785 (Ilkley and London, facsimile edn., 1973), III, 746-56.
11. Richard Feingold, Nature and Society: Later Eighteenth-Century Uses of the Pastoral and Georgic (Hassocks, Sussex, 1978), p. 145.
12. The Poems of William Cowper, ed. John D. Baird and Charles Ryskamp (Oxford, 1980), p. 412.
13. As Jonathan Wordsworth points out, it may have been Wordsworth's receipt of 'Yardley Oak' in a volume of Cowper's poems, coupled with the sight of Lorton yew in September 1804, that prompted him to write 'Yew Trees' (William Wordsworth: The Borders of Vision [Oxford, 1982], pp. 279, 442).
14. The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, ed. E. de Selincourt and Helen Darbishire, 5 vols. (Oxford, 1940-49), II, 209-10, ll. 1-13.
15. See Mark Storey (ed.), The Letters of John Clare (Oxford, 1985), pp. 49-50.
16. See Later Poems, II, 871.
17. The poem is included in Select Works of the British Poets with Biographical and Critical Prefaces by Dr. Aikin (London, 1820), p. 794. Clare's copy is in the Clare Collection in the Northampton Public Library.
18. Taylor's introduction is reproduced in Mark Storey (ed.), Clare: The Critical Heritage (London and Boston, 1973), p. 138.
19. Quoted in a letter from Taylor to Clare of January 1821; Storey, Letters, p. 135.
20. Line 71 'Who glut their vile unsatiated maws' echoes Paradise Lost, X, 990-91.
21. In '"Sages and patriots that being dead do yet speak to us": Readings of the English Revolution in the Late Eighteenth Century', Prose Studies, 14 (1991), 205- 30.