I Am – John Clare – Analysis

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

Details of this poem on Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_(poem)

And from – http://www.shmoop.com/i-am-john-clare/
“I Am,” undoubtedly Clare’s most famous poem (we think it might be his best too). Clare probably wrote this poem around in 1844 or 1845, which means he wrote it during trip number 2 to the asylum. While it possibly refers to the decaying state of Clare’s mind (old friends seem strange, language seems like noise), the poem is also a beautiful description of loneliness and change. Even as his friends have begun to desert him or treat him as if he were dead, the speaker insists on reaffirming the fact that he is alive, that he “is” (and we’re just assuming that the speaker is a “he” here). It is the extreme sadness brought on by this loneliness that partly accounts for his death wish in the poem’s final stanza.

Looking at the last stanza …

He longs for departure from this world to somewhere different away from man and woman – away from humanity and to abide with his creator (God).
The last lines are the most memorable for he reflects back to the innocence of his childhood when sleep and life was untroubled. And the last line, – ‘the grass below – above the vaulted sky’ – speaks of a natural cathedral – when he had a communion with his creator – perhaps unrecognised in his childhood but as he reflects back he realises that this was a special wonder of early life.

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