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“I Am!” Is a copious work of the poet John Clare. The poem was written in the mid-19th century. The poem talks about the life of the poet. The poem focuses on every aspect of life, sadness, pain, happiness and joy. The poem covers all the stages of life and the emotions one feels in those moments. The poem is a confessional poem which talks about the self-identity and selfhood of the poet. The poet lays bare open his life and himself for his readers.
About the poet
John Clare was born in 1793 in the United Kingdom. He was an English poet. His poems contained a celebration of the countryside and also the sorrows of life. He was a song of a laborer on a farm. He wrote a plethora of poems in his life. He published numerous poetry collections like “The Shepherd’s Calendar”, “The Lament of Swordy Well” and “Love Poems”.
The poem consists of 3 sexains. A sexain is a stanza with 6 lines. The first 2 stanzas talk about the depressing aspects of life and are internally connected in theme. The last stanza presents a shift in tone and theme and focuses on the optimistic mindset the poet holds.
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
The speaker begins this stanza by proclaiming his self. He is but what he is no one knows or cares to know about. He says that no one knows him properly. His friends do not know about him and forsake him and discard him like an old memory lost to the past. The speaker himself is the only one who knows about his pains and woes. He alone consumes them. These woes rise and disappear in oblivion without the knowledge of anyone. These woes are present like shadows and silt the speaker lives on.
The poem begins with the poet declaring his existence. He claims that he is. But this declaration is not backed by any other evidence or proof as no one cares about his existence or even knows him. Even his friends care very little about his existence. For them, the poet is nothing but an old memory lost to the time. The poet feels a sense of isolation and says that he alone is the “Self-consumer” of all his pains and sadness. He consumes his sadness because he can not share it with anyone else. These wolves and pains rise in him and then vanish without a trace. He is the “oblivious host” who hosts these aches and pains without any knowledge. These woes are temporary and behave like the shadows. In the last line, the poet lays emphasis on the fact that he lives on and survives even though all of this.
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.
The speaker says that he survives into nothingness. This nothingness is filled with hate and insults. The speaker feels like he is living in a dream. This dream is a dream that he’s awake. In his life, the speaker finds no sense of joy or purpose of living. He only finds the broken shipwreck of his life and all his dreams and ambitions. He says that even the people in his life that were closest and dearest to him seem strange now. He says that they don’t only seem strange, they seem stranger than everyone else.
In the second stanza, the poet elaborates on his idea from the first stanza. He focuses on his isolation and desolation from everyone else. He lays emphasis on how his life seems meaningless to him now. He finds nothing but hate and unnecessary noise in his life. This life does not feel like reality to the poet. Rather it seems like a dream. This dream is lacking in any sense of joy, happiness or purpose for the poet. In this “living sea” of the dream, the poet only finds a shipwreck of all of his broken dreams, ambitions and esteems. He feels alienated from everyone, especially his loved ones. He says that the people that are closest to him feel more stranger than strangers themselves.
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.
The speaker puts forward his wish in this last stanza. He talks about the things he desires. He says that he wants to travel and see the places where no line has gone before him. He wants to live in a place where no woman has ever smiled or cried. The speaker wants to live with his creator, God. He wishes to go back in time and live like a child again. He wants to sleep where he slept as a young child without having to think about woes or troubles. He wants to lie and stay in a place with grass below and open sky above.
The poet moves away from the world and reality towards the land of his wishes and God. He finds solitude in his creator and leaves behind his isolation. He puts forward his wish to live his life in a place almost heaven-like. This place is a place not explored by anyone before him. No one has ever traveled to this place and no woman has ever smiled or cried here. This place, according to the poet, is the place he will go after death. The poem talks about the poet’s wish to find tranquility and peace in the afterlife. In this place, the poet can finally feel at ease and sleep like a young child, without any worries. The poet knows that he can only find peace after death, in a place with grass below and “vaulted sky” above.