Thursday, April 4, 2013

Today's Poem: John Clare

Today's poem comes from John Clare, an Englishman who spent a lot of time in British asylums. He couldn't always remember who he was and at times claimed to be married to women he wasn't married to, and even claimed to be Lord Byron or William Shakespeare.

Whether his poems, which were distinctly unselfconscious, were a reflection of his mental problems or an escape from them is anyone's guess. But here is one in which he recognized who he was.

I feel I am, I only know I am,
And plod upon the earth as dull and void:
Earth's prison chilled my body with its dram
Of dullness, and my soaring thoughts destroyed.
I fled to solitudes from passion's dream,
But strife pursued — I only know I am.
I was a being created in the race
Of men, disdaining bounds of place and time,
A spirit that could travel o'er the space
Of earth and heaven, like a thought sublime —
Tracing creation, like my Maker free, —
A soul unshackled — like eternity:
Spurning earth's vain and soul debasing thrall —
But now I only know I am, — that's all.