We’re diving back into William Blake’s collection for this week’s Featured Poem – The Clod and the Pebble.
Especially for Volunteer’s Week, our Featured Poem comes from our Volunteer anthology Poets Don’t Lie. William Blake’s The Tyger has been chosen by Barnet volunteer Fred.
Happy New Year to all our Readers! Let’s kick start 2017 with a short but sweet verse from William Blake, Infant Joy.
This week’s Featured Poem is a choice from William Blake, taken from his Songs of Experience. Blake began writing poetry when he was twelve, but his visionary experiences began before then at the age of eight when he told his mother that he had seen a tree filled with angels “bespangling every bough like stars”. Such visions became a theme through his work, with this poem alongside his other I Heard an Angel appealing to a different set of senses.
This poem was recently read in a shared reading group within a Criminal Justice setting, who are making their way through Skellig by David Almond. The Angel is featured within the book, sung at one point by one of the characters, and it was the melodious quality that was picked up by one of the group members in particular. The choice was found to be an ’empowering’ one – take a read and see what you think.
I dreamt a dream! What can it mean?
And that I was a maiden Queen
Guarded by an Angel mild:
Witless woe was ne’er beguiled!
And I wept both night and day,
And he wiped my tears away;
And I wept both day and night,
And hid from him my heart’s delight.
So he took his wings, and fled;
Then the morn blushed rosy red.
I dried my tears, and armed my fears
With ten-thousand shields and spears.
Soon my Angel came again;
I was armed, he came in vain;
For the time of youth was fled,
And grey hairs were on my head.
William Blake’s complementary collections of poems Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience are brilliantly ambiguous. This introduction is on the face of it a celebration of innocence and of the need to capture it in art. Yet the moment at which the piper sits down to write his song in a book the child angel disappears and the clear water is ‘stain’d’. In other words the poem, the song, the work of art, is incapable of communicating innocence as such, but it is all we have. Is this a song of innocence or of experience?
Introduction to Songs of Innocence
Piping down the valleys wild,
Piping songs of pleasant glee,
On a cloud I saw a child,
And he laughing said to me:
“Pipe a song about a Lamb!”
So I piped with merry cheer.
“Piper, pipe that song again;”
So I piped: he wept to hear.
“Drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe;
Sing thy songs of happy cheer!”
So I sang the same again,
While he wept with joy to hear.
“Piper, sit thee down and write
In a book, that all may read.”
So he vanish’d from my sight;
And I pluck’d a hollow reed,
And I made a rural pen,
And I stain’d the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs
Every child may joy to hear.