“I Am” was written by John Clare in 1844 while he was at the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum. Clare suffered from numerous psychological conditions, which isolated him from his family and contributed to his depression and confusion. His poetry reflects both the tumultuous emotions he felt and his actual mental illness–Clare believed himself to be Lord Byron and Shakespeare, and his poetry mimics their styles.
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.
You can read more about John Clare and his works here: http://www.poemhunter.com/john-clare/