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John Clare

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

Written in Northampton County Asylum


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.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Comments about this poem (Written in Northampton County Asylum by John Clare )

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  • Eric Barty (8/13/2006 2:57:00 PM)

    John neatly captures the essence of depression, where the world - and our friends and acquaintences - become aliens.
    Stability is replaced by rapid and unexpected changes, so that one is never sure that the prevailing mood will last for any significant time.
    I doubt if anyone who has not suffered severe clinical depression would really understand John's assertion that it is possible to be lonely in a crowd.
    I have loved this poem since I first read it - in St. Andrew's Hospital (Formerly Northampton County Asylum) . (Report) Reply

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