James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

May 20

I Am! Yet What I Am

By John Clare (1793–1864)

  • John Clare was an English poet, son of a poor laborer, and was called “The Northamptonshire Peasant Poet.” His poems treated principally of rural topics. He died May 20, 1864.

  • I AM! yet what I am who cares, or knows?

    My friends forsake me, like a memory lost.

    I am the self-consumer of my woes,

    They rise and vanish, an oblivious host,

    Shadows of life, whose very soul is lost.

    And yet I am—I live—though I am toss’d.

    Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,

    Into the living sea of waking dream,

    Where there is neither sense of life, nor joys,

    But the huge shipwreck of my own esteem

    And all that’s dear. Even those I loved the best

    Are strange—nay, they are stranger than the rest.

    I long for scenes where man has never trod—

    For scenes where woman never smiled or wept—

    There to abide with my Creator, God,

    And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,

    Full of high thoughts, unborn. So let me lie,

    The grass below; above, the vaulted sky.