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I Am -- John Clare

Guest poem submitted by Celine:
(Poem #1507) 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 vapours tost

 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 esteem:
 Even the dearest that I love 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
When he was sane John Clare was a country man so most of his poems were
about animals, birds and other rural topics. Self-educated, poor beyond
imagining, John Clare experienced a brief, condescending vogue as England's
"Peasant Poet," at a time when illiteracy was a norm for England's rural
workers, and poets were expected to come from higher social ranks. (Keats,
for example, was ridiculed for writing "Cockney poetry"). When he was in
fashion, people would visit his cottage and sometimes give him a few coins.
When the novelty had worn off, this immensely gifted writer experienced
isolation and hardship, and finally became insane, spending most of his life
in an institution. The tough, memorable language of "I Am" demonstrates that
Clare was an extremely impressive artist. Lines such as "I am the
self-consumer of my woes" have a distinction and force that need no propping
up by the pathos of the life behind the writing. It was at Northampton
General Asylum, most likely within his first two years as an inmate, that
Clare composed what has become his best-known poem, a definitive lament
simply and achingly called "I Am". It is slightly disturbing, and terribly
well written. The first two verses are wonderful, though I fear the last
verse lets it down slightly.


[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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