Study Guide

I Am Quotes

  • Death

    My friends forsake me like a memory lost;—(2)

    A lost memory is pretty much gone for good. It's dead, and cannot really be recovered. The lines suggest that the speaker is already dead, and they foreshadow his death wish later in the poem.

    And yet I am, and live—like vapours tost (6)

    Is he alive or dead? The speaker says he "is" and lives, but then immediately compares himself to "vapours." There's nothing really alive about vapor; it's thin, wispy, and practically invisible—like a ghost.

    Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
    But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems; (9-10)

    No "sense of life"? That sounds like death. A "vast shipwreck"? There's usually some death in a shipwreck. The speaker is surrounded by death, but death that wreaks havoc (a shipwreck is, well, a wreck!).

    Even the dearest, that I love the best
    Are strange—nay, rather stranger than the rest (11-12)

    The speaker's closest pals are "strange." Actually, they are "stranger" than everything else. They aren't the same anymore, and so they're kind of dead, just like everything else in this poem.

    I long for scenes, where man has never trod
    A place where woman never smiled or wept
    There to abide with my Creator, God; (13-14)

    The speaker has a death wish. We get that. But notice how he tapdances around the whole issue. He never actually says he wants to die, only that he longs for "scenes, where man has never trod." Death is just another "scene," another act in the drama of life.

    There to abide with my Creator, God (15)

    Death isn't even death. Wait, what? The speaker uses the word "abide," which means to be with or live with. Death is just another way to live—here, with God. Sweet.

    And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
    Untroubling, and untroubled where I lie,
    The grass below—above the vaulted sky. (16-18)

    Death is compared to a sleep in these lines. This makes death seem pleasant, peaceful, and relaxing. The speaker's life is composed of "scorn and noise," so this might actually be a good thing.

  • Abandonment

    I am—yet what I am none cares or knows; (1)

    Nobody knows what the speaker is, and nobody cares. Sounds like most people have given up and left him for good, even though he's still alive and kicking (he says "I am" twice in this one line alone!).

    My friends forsake me like a memory lost;— (2)

    The speaker's friends have abandoned him "like a memory lost." His friends are mean; they don't even see the speaker as a person or friend, just as some forgettable memory. Yikes!

    And yet I am, and live—like vapours tost
    Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,—(6-7)

    The word "tost" is interesting. The speaker isn't just being ignored; he's been kicked aside and abandoned to a world of "nothingness."

    Even the dearest, that I love the best
    Are strange—nay, rather stranger than the rest. (11-12)

    There are lots of ways to read these lines. If the speaker's closest friends are really strange, it could mean they have changed. They have abandoned their old selves as well as the speaker.

  • Madness

    I am the self-consumer of my woes;—
    They rise and vanish in oblivion's host,
    Like shadows in love's frenzied stifled throes:—(3-5)

    Okay, okay, maybe the speaker is just being poetic. But maybe he's not. Maybe he really feels like he can see his woes "rise and vanish" right in front of him. This is a little crazy, don't you think?

    And yet I am, and live—like vapours tost
    Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,— (6-7)

    It is possible that "noise" is a description of how the speaker perceives the sounds around him. In other words, perhaps his mind sometimes hears people talking and interprets it as "noise."

    Into the living sea of waking dreams, (8)

    We can't imagine that a perfectly sane person would perceive life in this weird dreamy kind of way, so these lines offer a subtle clue as to the speaker's mental state.

    Even the dearest, that I love the best
    Are strange—nay, rather stranger than the rest (11-12)

    "Strange" and "stranger" could mean a few things here. Either the speaker's closest friends are acting different and thus seem strange, or they seem strange because the speaker's mind isn't all there. Which way do you see it?