Poesie: Clare’s I Am

You would have to have a hard heart indeed not to feel pity for Clare and to hear the utter truth, sincerity and pathos of ‘I Am”.

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I Am

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes –
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes –
And yet I am, and live – like vapors tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange – nay, rather, stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept –
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below – above the vaulted sky.

~ John Clare (1793 – 1864)

John Clare, born in Northamptonshire on 13 July 1793, died on 20 May 1864 at the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum in Northampton, was an English poet.  The son of a farm laborer, he became known for his celebrations of the English countryside and sorrows at its disruption.  Today, he is often seen as one of the major 19th-century poets, though this is a relatively new appreciation of his work.  The above poem was written at the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, where he spent the last third of his life.

John Clare.jpg


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