I Am by John Clare

I really love reading John Clare, whose poetry was not on the syllabus of any of the many college literature classes I took. So I guess he’s a minor Romantic poet, but I there’s a wild energy to his writing that makes him, to me, far more enjoyable than Wordsworth or Keats. And I was very pleased to incorporate “I Am” into a play reading I had last week at IRT Theater in Manhattan. Those of you who came to see it will recognize the opening lines.


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 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.