Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

William Blake on innocence

William Blake's poetry, like his paintings, had cosmic yearnings. He linked vastness and the everyday, as in the celebrated opening of ``Auguries of Innocence'' (ca. 1803) quoted below. Sometimes he was lyrical; here he uttered Old Testament warnings to those who didn't see mysticism and materialism, humanity and helpless creatures, as he did. 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 dove house fill'd with doves & Pigeons Shudders Hell thro' all its regions. 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 Game Cock clip'd & arm'd for fight Does the Rising Sun affright. Every Wolf's & Lion's howl Raises from Hell a Human Soul. The wild deer, wand'ring here & there, Keeps the Human Soul from Care. 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. He who the Ox to wrath has mov'd Shall never be by Woman lov'd. The wanton Boy that kills the Fly Shall feel the Spider's enmity. He who torments the Chafer's sprite Weaves a Bower in endless Night. The Catterpiller on the Leaf Repeats to thee thy Mother's grief. Kill not the Moth nor Butterfly, For the Last Judgment draweth nigh.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.