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On feeling detached when you're struggling emotionally

This poem, or sonnet to be precise, called 'Neurasthenia' by Agnes Mary Francis Robinson (1857-1944) describes the author's experiences suffering from a condition which, nowadays, would perhaps be called chronic fatigue syndrome or depression.

The poem illustrates how illness and sadness can sometimes completely alter our views of the world and others in it, and how we can feel cut off - as if we are living in a different place entirely, somewhere, as Robinson describes, that feels very "black" and far "below":


"I watch the happier people of the house Come in and out, and talk, and go their ways; I sit and gaze at them; I cannot rouse My heavy mind to share their busy days.

I watch them glide, like skaters on a stream, Across the brilliant surface of the world. But I am underneath: they do not dream How deep below the eddying flood is whirl’d.

They cannot come to me, nor I to them; But, if a mightier arm could reach and save, Should I forget the tide I had to stem? Should I, like these, ignore the abysmal wave?

Yes! in the radiant air how could I know How black it is, how fast it is, below?"




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