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A Poet is Made not Born


There are dark forces at work…and I do not, just, mean those in my head. For our neighbours have a companion for Mo, their two-year old tabby cat. He may look all pussy, but, in fact he is evil exemplified. If I could get close enough to examine him, I suspect that I would find 666 tatooed upon the back of his head.
Dark forces, too, have always reigned in the psyches of poets. John Clare (1793-1864) was Britain’s foremost poet of the natural world. I have copied below, perhaps, his most famous and moving poem.

I AM

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 oblivion’s host
Like shadows in love-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 love 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.

“I Am” was written in an asylum, where Clare was subsequently to die. His poem, though traditional in form and style, reflects the turmoil of his mind, tossed beyond the realms of social acceptability into a bottomless pit of depression.
One senses his yearning for simpler, calmer times, when his mind was less “troubled” and more unified with natural forces.
Although written in the eighteenth century, “I am” remains relatable to the contempory psyche. The depth of expression and use of language within the piece, offer an insight into the consciousness of someone affected by bipolar disorder. Whilst the context in which modern man and woman expresses him/herself has changed, the nature of our self-expression remains unaltered.

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