Featured Poem: John Clare’s ‘I am!’

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John Clare is famously a poet of the rural working class and the Northamptonshire countryside, but he is also a well-known inmate of an insane asylum. This poem, reflecting on the poet’s life, his forgotten achievements and abandonment, was written at the the beginning of twenty years or so in the asylum.

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 shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
And e’en the dearest–that I loved the best–
Are strange–nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil’d 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, written around 1845.

And if you thought that was good, take a look at the John Clare blog.

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