Analysis of John Clare's "I Am"

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Kaitlin Kelleher
March 11th, 2013
ENG 252
Darrohn

Analysis of John Clare's “I Am”

Through the use of punctuation (or lack thereof), repetition, and rhyme scheme, John Clare's first stanza of “I Am” expresses the speaker's distorted sense of self and vast understanding of his morose existence. The following stanza has been chosen as the analysis point for this paper: 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's frenzied stifled throes;--And yet I am, and live-- with vapours toss't (Lines 1-6)

This poem is believed to be a direct reflection of Clare's unfortunate time spent in an asylum. Unfortunate in the sense that he went mad to begin with, but not unfortunate in that some of his greatest works were created while there. This poem, “I Am”, is an example of the dark, profound poetry that came from his institutionalization. When a poet sets to writing a new work, everything must be taken into consideration, including things like punctuation and the effect it will have on the structure and understanding of the poem. Clare, especially within the first stanza, is very effective in creating a certain feeling through his use of the punctuation, or lack thereof. Two of the significant poetic elements that his punctuation helps to create are enjambment, found at the very end, and caesura, which is found throughout the stanza. Both of these elements help to emphasize particular points within the poem. For instance, the introduction of the poem starts with a line that emphasizes two different parts: “I am – yet what I am, none cares or knows;” (line 1). This particular line shows an example of caesura, which simply means that there is a pause in the middle of a line. The significant pause, or the more significant of the two found, falls directly after the words “I am”. Hyphenation makes the reader come to a halt, which in...
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