Monday, January 6, 2014

William Blake*

William Blake (1759—1827) is one of the most influential poets of the English language. At the time of his death, however, he was little known as an artist, and even less known as a poet. Besides producing engravings for his own poetry, he also made illustrations for such works as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Milton's Paradise Lost, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, the Book of Job, and Dante's Divine Comedy.

According to The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Blake said "all he knew was in the Bible", which he called "the Great Code of Art." He was not a very orthodox thinker, preferring to write in figurative ways such "prophetic" books as The Four Zoas, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and Jerusalem. The following is from his Songs of Innocence and of Experience.

On Anothers Sorrow

Can I see anothers woe,
And not be in sorrow too.
Can I see anothers grief,
And not seek for kind relief.

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrows share,
Can a father see his child,
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill'd.

Can a mother sit and hear,
An infant groan an infant fear—
No no never can it be.
Never never can it be.

And can he who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small birds grief & care
Hear the woes that infants bear—

And not sit beside the nest
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near
Weeping tear on infants tear.

And not sit both night & day,
Wiping all our tears away.
O! no never can it be.
Never never can it be.

He doth give his joy to all.
He becomes an infant small.
He becomes a man of woe
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not, thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy maker is not by.
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy maker is not near.

O! he gives to us his joy,
That our grief he may destroy
Till our grief is fled & gone
He doth sit by us and moan

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about William Blake: first post, third post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.