'I Am' by John Clare (Poem Analysis) Essay

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“I Am” is a poem that was written by John Clare during the 1840s. Clare’s rustic poetry had brought him considerable fame and wealth, which enabled him to escape the meagre life he had experienced up until that time. After some years, his rural style of poetry was no longer in fashion, and his poetry met with little success. Psychological pressures resulting from the need to make money to feed his family, the struggles to adapt his poetry to the changing times and his inability to reconcile his rural neighbourhood with urban London which his fame had acquainted him with, took its toll on his sanity, and led to spells in two different asylums. The poem revolves around circumstances surrounding Clare at the time, and his entire life.
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He tells the readers that he has been left behind, forgotten and abandoned to the point where he feels like he must announce his presence to the world and wishes others would acknowledge him. The friends Clare did have most likely didn’t care much for him being institutionalized, therefore causing him to speak of his friends in such a pessimistic manner. He then states that there was no one to help to ease his pain in the third and fourth lines of the first stanza: “I am the self-consumer of my woes, they rise and vanish in oblivious host,” he makes reference to his insanity in the phrase “oblivious host” which hints that he is usually unaware of the happenings occurring about him because of his mental health.

The use of the phrase “I am” acts as a reinforcement of his identity, as though he is addressing doubts to his existence, he continuously uses rhetorical questions to ask himself about the world and everything that is happening outside his confinement. Clare speaks as though he has been left behind by those who once knew him as a full and complete person and as a man of fame and fortune. He feels disappointed to be left out and forgotten about, he suspects that something is wrong with him and wants someone to tell him the problem. He has given up on himself and feels despaired: “And yet I am, and live-like vapours tossed.” The
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