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Spring is a great time for poetry and BMA is exploring the verses of nature poet John Clare. With the warmer weather its now easier to enjoy sauntering in the woods and fields and join the poets in observing the workings of Nature. Like the nightingale he wrote so passionately about, John Clare thrived in woodland recesses observing and always discovering the deeper mysteries of his muse. There he took pen to paper and from the rural village of Helpston sung out his ecological vision to the world. This video poem, Hymn to Spring, employs the romantic technique of personifying nature – thus the inclusion of the Romantic artists such as William Waterhouse and Sir Frank Dicksee – and by doing so helps us understand her. They tell us Nature is not only a living entity with human qualities but is in fact us and we her.

The numerous biographies, articles and journals about John Clare have well documented his love of trees, shrubs, birds, flowers and forest nooks. Yet it was only as a published botanist that his habit of wandering off into secluded woods was considered socially acceptable by his fellow villagers. His poem Shadows of Taste describes his partiality towards solitary alcoves:

He loves each desolate neglected spot
That seems in labour’s hurry left forgot

Even today this activity might seem strange to neighbors and society due to our favoring more artificial means of experiencing new thoughts and sensations. Yet while we are ensconced online or with a DVD the poet in their woodland haunt maintains that forgotten connection to earth and trees – perhaps for the rest of us. The poem is not only a verbal landscape painting but a how to manual of reestablishing our ties to Earth. With the persistent busyness of our daily thinking we sometimes need an instructor to point the way simply, gracefully and thoughtfully. Clare reminds us that its okay to dwell..

Lost in such extacys in this old spot
I feel that rapture which the world hath not
That joy like health that flushes in my face
Amid the brambles of this ancient place
The rest of peace the sacredness of mind
In such deep solitudes we seek – and find.

(from The Robin’s Nest)

Hymn to Spring is a wooing of Nature’s eternal embrace which is now more essential than ever. We are all effected by the impact of our ever expanding civilization on the environment. Clare was too – watching his woodland hideaways slowly yield to the deforestation of the Enclosure Acts. It has been stated that the state of the world reflects the state of our thoughts. By reviewing the old poets we renew our thinking, looking closely at the arrival of Spring as John Clare would – taking note of her beauty and respectfully yet passionately summoning her to join us again.

As an essayist, author, editor and lecturer Christopher Bamford’s reading has the subtle clarity of one who has written extensively on the insights and revelations of the the romantic period. An audio edition of his selected published essays is scheduled for release this summer – (see Keats, Goethe: Romanticism and the Evolution of Consciousness.)

When not praising Ms Larkin’s performance, many people have asked me why I chose this particular piano music.

My inspiration in selecting the material came from the book, Jane Austen and Mozart: Classical Equilibrium in Fiction and Music by Robert K. Wallace. The chapter called Pride and Prejudice and Piano Concerto no. 9 was the nod to start the audio off with an excerpt from that concerto. It matched the material and first opening lines perfectly. Great minds think alike and Mozart and Austen were very much in sync structurally. The music, played by Sarah Edelstein and recorded at BMA, is extremely moving and adds a rich component to Alison’s wonderful narration.

In many ways Jane Austen is operatic and this audio comes the closest of all them to presenting that. Excerpts extracted from other Mozart piano concertos used in chapter segues give the listener a chance to hear Mozart gems they’ve possibly never heard before. That is part of the many offerings of this audio.

- Jason Brown, BMA Studios

From Jane Austen and Mozart:

“The action of volume 1 of Pride and Prejudice is intense and playful, complex and quick-paced. Volume 2 is slower in pace and deeper in emotion. Volume 3 returns to the quick-paced action of volume 1 but is more relaxed in structure.

The first movement of K. 271 (Piano Concerto No. 9) is an intensely playful and quick-paced Allegro. The second movement is slower in tempo and deeper in emotion. The third movement returns to the high spirits and quick temp of the opening movement but is more relaxed in structure, including a ’surprise minuet.’

“K. 271 has even more affinities with Pride and Prejudice than most Mozart concertos do. Those affinities are emotional and spiritual as well as structural. Broadly speaking, the mood of each work is happy-sad-happy in the successive volumes or movement.”