Wednesday, January 11, 2006

“For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life”

Can I see another's woe, and not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief, and not seek for kind relief?

He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars: general Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer, for Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars.

Embraces are cominglings from the head even to the feet, and not a pompous high priest entering by a secret place.

The Angel that presided o'er my birth
Said, Little creature form'd of Joy & Mirth
Go love without the help of any King on Earth.


The voice of the Devil.

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

1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul.
2. That Energy, call'd Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call'd Good, is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.

But the following Contraries to these are True:

1. 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
2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3 Energy is Eternal Delight


"Pray, Mr. Taylor, did you ever find yourself as it were, standing close beside the vast and luminous orb of the Moon?"

"Not that I remember, Mr. Blake: did you ever?"

"Yes, frequently; and I have felt an almost irresistible desire to throw myself into it headlong."

"I think, Mr. Blake, you had better not; for if you were to do so, you most probably would never come out of it again."

Paul Foot:

In London in the 1790s, like in London today, it was commonplace to see a woman being beaten up in the street, and equally common for embarrassed or irritated bystanders to pass by on the other side. William Blake had a short temper and often lost it. Walking in the St Giles area, and seeing a woman attacked, he launched himself on the scene with such ferocity that the assailant 'recoiled and collapsed'. When the abuser recovered, he told a bystander that he thought he had been attacked by the 'devil himself'. At around the same time Blake was standing at his window looking over the yard of his neighbour when he saw a boy 'hobbling along with a log tied to his foot'. Immediately he stormed across and demanded in the most violent terms that the boy should be freed. The neighbour replied hotly that Blake was trespassing and had no business interfering in other people's property (which included, of course, other people's child labour). The furious argument which followed was only resolved when the boy was released.

Some years later, in 1803, Blake was living in a country cottage in Sussex when he came across a soldier lounging in his garden. Blake greeted the soldier with a volley of abuse, and frogmarched him to the local pub where he was billeted. The soldier later testified that as they went, Blake muttered repeatedly, 'Damn the King. The soldiers are all slaves.' In the south of England in 1803, when soldiers were billeted in every village for fear of a Napoleonic invasion, such a statement was criminal treachery. The soldier promptly sneaked to his superiors. Blake was tried for sedition, and escaped deportation and even possibly a death sentence largely because the soldier made a mess of his evidence and because no one in court knew anything about Blake's revolutionary views which had been openly expressed ten years previously. He was found not guilty, and went on writing for another 23 years until his death. He never once swerved from his intense loathing of king, soldiers and slavery.

These are two of the hundreds of anecdotes in Peter Ackroyd's glorious biography which will warmly commend Blake to any reader even remotely committed to reform. This warmth enthuses the whole book. Ackroyd revels in Blake's 'exuberant hopefulness' which grew out of his passionate rage at the world he saw around him.


  1. Thank you. The pleasure's mine, but the beauty's all his - the life, the work, the politics, even the religion. (All indistinguishable in his case, anyway.)

  2. Muggletonians! I loved that Witness Against the Beast book.

  3. perezoso10:51 PM

    I do think Blake was sort of vision-possessed, and a real despiser of hypocrisy and injustce, including slavery and racism and the monarchy. But Willie was also a bit of a nut and enthusiast: possibly mad (Pound thought that I believe). Perhaps a real prophet, if one believed in those things ( I don't). Shelley represents a similiar spirit, but I think of a higher, and indeed more philosophical sort; and Shelley thankfully lacked the mystic-preacher aspect of Blake...

  4. Well, I liked this. For what 'tis worth there is a nice album of settings of of the Songs of Innocence and of Experience, done in a folk style, by singer-songwriter Greg Brown. One of the songs is ``On Another's Sorrow'' (quoted at the outset of the post.) There is cycle of settings of nine of the Songs of Innocence and Experience for voice and oboe by Ralph Vaughn-Williams. There are some late settings by Britten (Songs and Proverbs of William Blake), and five settings by Virgil Thomson, including a setting of Jerusalem that is, IMHO, to be preferred to the familiar one by Sir Charles H. H. Parry. Finally there is william Bolcom's complete setting of all 46 songs of innocence and experience which is finally available on CD (3 actually, from Naxos). I haven't heard it yet, but I just ordered it. Happy Listening...

  5. perezoso1:51 PM

    Songs of Innocence and Experience are slightly overrated, methinks. The rhymes and structures overly lyrical. Again, Pound offered some helpful insights. Sure, there is talent and a sort of uncompromising moral vision there (not necessarily an advantage); but I think ol' Willie was a naif. Percy Byatch Shelley, tho' also with some bombast and lyrical excesses, the real Beat pro-genitor (complete Alastor and most will agree).

  6. Anonymous8:40 PM

    beautiful poetry , deepening the souls understanding of the life of a profound artist and poet....

  7. Anonymous4:35 AM

  8. mashedcat says,,, have a listen to Van Morrison`s album , SENSE OF WONDER,, the song ``LET THE SLAVE, ,,, SOME QUOTES OF BLAKE PUT TO MUSIC, i hope you enjoy it