Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Quickening Maze by Alan Foulds

This unusual novel imagines the confluence of two great 19th century poets, John Clare and Alfred Tennyson, after Tennyson's brother Septimus is confined to the same mental asylum that Clare has been committed to. They barely meet, but their associates and friends intermingle, and the associations lend a mystical atmosphere to what is already a heady environment for poetry. Clare, an extreme alcoholic, escapes several times from the ground to take up with a colony of gypsies staying in the surrounding forest, exiled as they had been from English common land by draconian property laws, the infamous "enclosure" enforcement that reduced the circumstances of the poor working class even more.

The asylum director falls into a friendship with Tennyson and borrows money from him to fund an invention, a device for mass producing craft wood furniture, which fails utterly. The director's daughter falls in love with Tennyson.

The Fear Of Flowers

The nodding oxeye bends before the wind,
The woodbine quakes lest boys their flowers should find,
And prickly dogrose spite of its array
Can't dare the blossom-seeking hand away,
While thistles wear their heavy knobs of bloom
Proud as a warhorse wears its haughty plume,
And by the roadside danger's self defy;
On commons where pined sheep and oxen lie
In ruddy pomp and ever thronging mood
It stands and spreads like danger in a wood,
And in the village street where meanest weeds
Can't stand untouched to fill their husks with seeds,
The haughty thistle oer all danger towers,
In every place the very wasp of flowers.

John Clare

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