The text in this print comes from a poem by John Clare (1793-1864), whose poetry lamented the criminal destruction of the commons by those who sought to “improve” the land by turning it into profit-maximizing farms. This process, known as enclosure, eradicated all of the complex ways in which commoners used, valued and enjoyed their common lands, creating instead a landscape suitable for capitalism, where money, and the ability to generate as much of it as possible, was the only value considered. Clare’s poetry recorded the tragedy of this loss, and the values of nature that were being denied. This line comes from a love poem written to a weed – here are the first few verses:
And though thou seem’st a weedling wild,
Wild and neglected like me,
Thou still art dear to Nature’s child,
And I will stop to notice thee.
For oft, like thee, in wild retreat,
Array’d in humble garb like thee,
There’s many a seeming weed proves sweet,
As sweet as garden-flowers can be.
And, like to thee, each seeming weed
Flowers unregarded; like to thee,
Without improvement, runs to seed,
Wild and neglected like me.