William Blake (1757-1827)




The Human Abstract

Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody Poor;
And Mercy no more could be,
If all were as happy as we.

And mutual fear brings peace,
Till the selfish loves increase;
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.

He sits down with holy fears,
And waters the ground with tears;
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.

Soon spreads the dismal shade
Of Mystery over his head;
And the Catterpiller and Fly,
Feed on the Mystery.

And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
Ruddy and sweet to eat;
And the Raven his nest has made
In its thickest shade.

The Gods of the earth and sea,
Sought thro’ Nature to find this Tree.
But their search was all in vain;
There grows one in the Human Brain.




   




The Clod & the Pebble

Love seeketh not Itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care;
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.

So sang a little Clod of Clay,
Trodden with the cattle’s feet;
But a Pebble of the brook,
Warbled out these metres meet:

Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to Its delight;
Joys in anothers loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.




   




London

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice; in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot’s curse
Blasts the new-born Infant’s tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.




   




The Tyger

The Tyger

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies,
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears;
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?




   




The Garden of Love
"...and priests in black gowns were walking their rounds..."

The Garden of Love

I went to the Garden of Love
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And ‘Thou shalt not’, writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore,

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys & desires.                      




   




Sunflower

Ah, Sunflower

Ah, sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done.

Where the youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow
Arise from their graves and aspire
Where my sunflower wishes to go.




   




My Pretty Rose Tree

A flower was offered to me:
Such a flower as May never bore.
But I said I’ve a Pretty Rose-tree,
And I passed the sweet flower o’er.

Then I went to my Pretty Rose-tree,
To tend her by day and by night;
But my Rose turned away with jealousy,
And her thorns were my only delight.




   




Never Seek to Tell thy Love

Never seek to tell thy love,
Love that never told can be;
For the gentle wind does move
Silently, invisibly.

I told my love, I told my love,
I told her all my heart;
Trembling, cold, in ghastly fears,
Ah! she did depart!

Soon as she was gone from me,
A traveler came by,
Silently, invisibly
He took her with a sigh.




   




The Question Answered

What is it men in women do require?
The lineaments of gratified Desire.
What is it women do in men require?
The lineaments of gratified Desire.




   




A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I water’d it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with my smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veil’d the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch’d beneath the tree




   




I Saw a Chapel

I saw a chapel all of gold
That none did dare to enter in,
And many weeping stood without,
Weeping, mourning, worshipping.

I saw a serpent rise between
The white pillars of the door,
And he forc’d and forc’d and forc’d,
Down the golden hinges tore.

And along the pavement sweet,
Set with pearls and rubies bright,
All his slimy length he drew
Till upon the altar white

Vomiting his poison out
On the bread and on the wine.
So I turn’d into a sty
And laid me down among the swine.




   




Selected lines from Auguries of Innocence

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage.
A dog starv’d at his Master’s Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
A Horse misus’d upon the Road
Calls to Heaven for Human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fibre from the Brain does tear.
A Skylark wounded in the wing,
A Cherubim does cease to sing.
The Lamb misus’d breeds public strife
And yet forgives the Butcher’s Knife.
The Bat that flits at close of Eve
Has left the Brain that won’t believe.
The Owl that calls upon the Night
Speaks the Unbeliever’s fright.
He who shall hurt the little Wren
Shall never be belov’d by Men.
The wanton Boy that kills the Fly
Shall feel the Spider’s enmity.
Kill not the Moth nor Butterfly,
For the Last Judgement draweth nigh.
The Beggar’s Dog & Widow’s Cat,
Feed them & thou wilt grow fat.
The poison of the Honey Bee
Is the Artist’s Jealousy.
A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for Joy & Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the World we safely go.
Joy & Woe are woven fine,
A Clothing for the Soul divine;
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
The Beggar’s Rags, fluttering in Air,
Does to Rags the Heavens tear.
The poor Man’s Farthing is worth more
Than all the Gold on Afric’s Shore.
He who shall teach the Child to Doubt
The rotting Grave shall ne’er get out.
He who respects the Infant’s faith
Triumph’s over Hell & Death.
The Child’s Toys & the Old Man’s Reasons
Are the Fruits of the Two seasons.
A Riddle or the Cricket’s Cry
Is to Doubt a fit Reply.
He who Doubts from what he sees
Will ne’er believe, do what you Please.
If the Sun & Moon should doubt
They’d immediately Go out.
The Whore & Gambler, by the State
Licenc’d, build that Nation’s Fate.
Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.
Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet Delight.
Some are Born to sweet Delight,
Some are born to Endless Night.
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night,
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day.




   




Selected prose from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The voice of the Devil

All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors:

That Man has two real existing principles, viz: a Body & a Soul. That energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.

But the following Contraries to these are True:

Man has no Body distinct from his Soul, for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.

Energy is the only life and is from the Body, and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.

Energy is Eternal Delight

  .  .  .

A Memorable Fancy

As I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and insanity, I collected some of their Proverbs. Thinking that as the sayings used in a nation mark its character, so the Proverbs of Hell shew the nature of Infernal wisdom better than any description of buildings or garments.

When I came home, on the abyss of the five senses, where a flat sided steep frowns over the present world, I saw a mighty Devil folded in black clouds, hovering on the sides of the rock; with corroding fires he wrote the following sentence now percieved by the minds of men, & read by them on earth:

How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?

  .  .  .

Proverbs of Hell:

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.

He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.

The cut worm forgives the plow.

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.

He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.

Eternity is in love with the productions of time.

The busy bee has no time for sorrow.

The hours of folly are measur’d by the clock; but of wisdom, no clock can measure.

All wholsom food is caught without a net or a trap.

The most sublime act is to set another before you.

If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.

  .  .  .

Prisons are built with stones of Law,
Brothels with bricks of Religion.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.

The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.

What is now proved was once only imagin’d.

One thought fills immensity.

Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.

Every thing possible to be believ’d is an image of truth.

The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.

The fox provides for himself, but God provides for the lion.

The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.

Listen to the fools reproach! it is a kingly title!

When thou seest an Eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius; lift up thy head!

As the catterpiller chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.

To create a little flower is the labour of ages.

Exuberance is Beauty.

Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of Genius.

Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.

Where man is not, nature is barren.

Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ’d.

Enough! or Too much.

  .  .  .

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is:  infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.