John Clare

(13 July 1793 – 20 May 1864 / Northamptonshire / England)

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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 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.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Read poems about / on: childhood, memory, lost, woman, sleep, sea, sky, death, god, life, joy, women, rose, dream, friend

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  • * Sunprincess * (6/18/2014 11:30:00 AM)

    Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
    Into the living sea of waking dreams,
    .......in the living sea of waking dreams
    ....we all must sail alone, through life.....
    Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
    .....and when out to sea, it may just be one continuous storm...
    But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
    ......whereas when you have passed away, the storm is finished
    ....and another's life may be only sweet sunny days...
    And e'en the dearest- that I loved the best-
    ..........i think whom we choose to love
    ........is based upon some choice
    Are strange- nay, rather stranger than the rest.
    .........and some destiny. as when two ships
    ......cross paths on a moonlit night.... (Report) Reply

  • Karen Wood (12/14/2013 1:29:00 AM)

    This poem seems to convey perfectly the misery and isolation of depression. I love the richness of some of his expressions ' I am the self-consumer of my woes'. Is he consuming his woes, or are his woes consuming him? The line seems to suggest both and it's like viewing one of those optical illusions where the mind flips between the two views but can't hold both at once.

    The sea metaphor of the second verse is just beautiful, 'living sea of waking dreams', ' the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems'. Bleak but beautifully evocative. This poem can be read over and over and never become stale. (Report) Reply

  • Tony Karas (12/10/2012 6:25:00 PM)

    Beyond excellently done. Shames my own feeble attempt at near the same topic but that's the difference between a professional and an amateur. (Report) Reply

  • Justin Gonzalez (12/10/2012 3:44:00 AM)

    Wow, powerful. Wraps up all the sadness one could experience in life in one well written poem. (Report) Reply

  • Legendary Gamer (12/10/2011 5:03:00 AM)

    What a remarkable poem this is, The sorrow of loosing and betrayals is clearly visible. I just loved it.

    ☠ £€G€и ÐÅRŸ☠ (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (12/10/2009 6:05:00 AM)

    There is a tinge of self-pity about this poem, but it is difficult to begrudge Clare that note when one considers the circumstances. This poem demonstrates the great power of poetry to be the thing it describes. Indeed that could be a definition if what poetry is. It is as though Clare's illness becomes words, it is the flesh made word. (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A (12/10/2009 12:55:00 AM)

    In this selfish world such an attitude is indeed necessary to survive as a monarch between the sky and earth! Happy and confident such a man will be! I appreciate the author for having such an attitude! (Report) Reply

  • Jan Campbell (7/21/2009 6:00:00 PM)

    John Clare suffered from manic depression, to say that this beautiful poem is 'self-obsessed drivel' trivialises his sufferings in a very arrogant way. I think it is a privilege to be allowed to glimpse those sufferings expressed so vividly. I too suffer from this illness which thankfully is much better understood today and the first time I read this poem I identified with John Clare and it remains my favourite. There is definately something about being in a dark place that causes some people to reach into the depths of their pain and find relief in writing, painting etc which we then can share. (Report) Reply

  • Is It Poetry (12/10/2008 4:50:00 PM)

    Well I did'nt have any coffee and this dude is rockin...drivel these colors blinded devine twined in such wonderfull fasion of time..wooh (Report) Reply

  • Peter MacKay (7/18/2008 11:22:00 PM)

    Jim Doyle (reviewer, above) says that Clare's poem is self-obsessed drivel. I disagree. I don't think there is such a thing as drivel. There is only writing. I don't even believe in good or bad writing. I believe, though, in perception. And it is perception that Doyle has used to attack Clare's timeless poem. I wrote this poem out on onion paper in Gothic script with a calligraphic pen, framed it, and gave it to a good friend of mine. My friend, who doesn't have a sentimental bone in her body, read it aloud as we sat having a pot of tea in the garden. The tears fell from her eyes, like raindrops against a window-pane. She was so taken by Clare's words, so moved by them, she found it difficult to speak. Again - perception. We had Earl Grey tea and hot buttered scones. It was a delightful day... Again, perception. Nothing but. Thank you, too, to Jane Koehorst (reviewer, above) who spoke so kindly and movingly about Clare's poem. You say: 'I wish I could create something as beautiful as this with words.' My dear, you just have. Peter - alphecca@gmail.com (Report) Reply

  • Amritbir Kaur (4/12/2008 3:31:00 AM)

    I recently posted my views about the last stanza of the poem at: http: //literarybonanza.blogspot.com/2008/04/i-long-for-scenes-where-man-has-never.html (Report) Reply

  • Amritbir Kaur (4/12/2008 3:30:00 AM)

    I recently posted my views about the last stanza of the poem at: http: //literarybonanza.blogspot.com/ (Report) Reply

  • Danielle Stith (3/1/2008 5:14:00 AM)

    I don't think that Kim Wood or Jim Doyle really understand the depth behind this poem. John Clare suffered from depression- quite obviously, and it's not about feeling like that 'one time or another', and it's not 'self obsessed drivel'. Clare is trying to express himself in a way that is accurate to the way he feels.

    Depression is not a quickly passing thing, and he obviously needed some way of showing the true nature of the illness. (Report) Reply

  • Kim Wood (12/10/2007 11:23:00 AM)

    I think it's sad and sweet. Who doesn't feel like that at one time or another. Many people talk at you but how many listen? See nothings changed in a hundred years as far as how people relate. I wish John was alive so I could talk to him. (Report) Reply

  • Jim Doyle (12/10/2007 5:02:00 AM)

    What a load of self-obsessed drivel........the inside of some tortured soul’s head. Compare it to the poem of another great self obsessed and tortured soul, Byron’s ‘so we’ll go no more a roving’ …….. short, full of evocative imagery, simple yet packed with complexity – all the sadness and regret one person can cope with in a few short poignant lines …….. (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Sinnott (11/13/2007 5:32:00 PM)

    It took me a couple of reads to figure out what this poem was talking about, I researched it and he came from a family who worked a farm and his parents were both illiterate, he was also was crazy when he wrote I Am, the first stanza talks about who he is, the 2nd is about where he is headed in life, and the 3rd is what he is longing for... overall, this is a extreemly sad poem and we should all be humbled by it! (Report) Reply

  • Steve Coutee (11/10/2007 10:27:00 PM)

    This poem stripped me of my armor of manhood. I am in such agenizing emotional pain. (Report) Reply

  • Brian Dorn (7/26/2006 12:40:00 PM)

    A disturbing poem, sad from beginning to end, the emotional content of which is stunning in its expression. (Report) Reply

  • Jane Koehorst (6/2/2006 9:03:00 AM)

    This poem is so unbelievably sad, and yet so uplifting at the same time. I first heard just the last verse quoted on a program about Britain, and I had to rush to the computer to find the rest of it.
    It touches me so deeply, and resounds with me so very much. I have it pinned to my fridge, and read it every time I pass. I wish I could create something as beautiful as this with words. (Report) Reply

Read all 23 comments »

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