A few weeks ago, I wrote a little post about the poem, Leisure, (What is this life, if full of care). written by W.H.Davies.
I had seen people, often mistake this nice poem, to have been penned by another great poet, John Clare.
Born in a very poor family, Clare even while laboring as a shepherd taught himself to read and write. He wrote beautiful poetry, born out of several personal experiences most of them disappointing, that he had faced at every turn of his life.The grudging admiration that came his way from the contemporary society as a ‘peasant poet’, was not enough to benefit either his purse or his restless spirit.
He suffered delusions that he was indeed an incarnation of great bards like Shakespeare and Byron. As though taking a cue from his publishers and others who sought to correct his poems on the plea that they sounded rustic, he set about to rewrite or correct works of others, which he thought he himself wrote earlier.
He was confined to an asylum as insane where, in his lucid intervals he continued to write memorable poetry. I reproduce below a poignant poem of his, regarded as his last lines.
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 oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied, stifled throes–
And yet I am, and live–like vapors tost
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.
One of his good friends was Charles Lamb, who led a similarly troubled life, but with greater fortitude. John Clare, incidentally wrote a touching poem, ‘To Elia’, in memory of his good friend.
As children, we were fortunate to have read, “Essays of Elia”, as well as his simple prose renderings of Shakespeare’s dramas. Lamb’s love for his mentally troubled sister, Mary Lamb, was so sublime that, despite being troubled by setbacks in his individual life, he not only devoted his entire life to her care, but even named her as coauthor of his works.