(Privately Printed, 1783)
The Poetical Sketches, Blake's earliest work, is a slender demy octavo volume of 38 leaves, privately issued, without publisher's or printer's name. The title-page reads: POETICAL | SKETCHES. | By W. B. | LONDON: | Printed in the Year MDCCLXXXIII. The first quire of two leaves contains the title and 'advertisement'; then nine quires in fours, signed B—K (K4 blank) and paginated 1-70. There are no half-titles to the section 'Miscellaneous Poems' or to 'King Edward the Third.' The book is without index or table of literary contents, which are as follows:—
|To the Evening Star
|Song: 'How sweet I roam'd...'
|Song: 'My silks and fine array '
|Song: 'Love and harmony combine'
|Song: 'I love the jocund dance '
|Song: 'Memory, hither come
|Song: 'Fresh from the dewy hill
|Song: 'When early morn walks forth
|To the Muses
|Gwin, King of Norway
|An Imitation of Spencer
|King Edward the Third.
|Prologue intended for a dramatic piece of King Edward the Fourth
|Prologue to King John
|A War Song to Englishmen
|The Couch of Death
The little book, which is exceedingly rare, is the only one of Blake's poetical writings, except the first book of the French Revolution, which made its appearance in ordinary type. As we learn from Cunningham, it was printed at the expense of Flaxman and Mathew, who handed the unbound sheets to the author to dispose of for his own advantage. The size of the edition is not stated; but it was probably a small one, and of it Blake seems to have issued a few copies only. The Preface, which was the composition of Mathew, runs:—
'The following Sketches were the production of untutored youth, commenced in his twelfth, and occasionally resumed by the author till his twentieth year; since which time, his talents having been wholly directed to the attainment of excellence in his profession, he has been deprived of the leisure requisite to such a revisal of these sheets, as might have rendered them less unfit to meet the public eye.
'Conscious of the irregularities and defects to be found in almost every page, his friends have still believed that they possessed a poetical originality, which merited some respite from oblivion. These their opinions remain, however, to be now reproved or confirmed by a less partial public.'
While the book contains a few obvious misprints, such as 'cares' for 'ears' in 'An Imitation of Spencer,' and 'her' for 'his' in the fourth stanza of the 'Song' on p. 12; yet its general inaccuracy is far less than has been represented, and by no means warrants such violent changes as D. G. Rossetti's 'rustling birds of dawn' for 'rustling beds of dawn' in the 'Mad Song.' The printer, while generally respecting Blake's use of 'd or ed where the latter is to be pronounced as a separate syllable, has evidently corrected Blake's spelling, omitted capitals, and supplied his own punctuation, frequently a faulty one. See 'Gwin, King of Norway,' where the lines,
'Arouse thyself! the nations, black
Like clouds, come rolling o'er!'
are printed :
'Arouse thyself! the nations black,
Like clouds, come rolling o'er!'
In the present edition punctuation is amended and the indented lines of the printer abandoned in favour of Blake's own invariable and more artistic alinement. In every other respect the text of the original edition is exactly reproduced.
The lyrics in Poetical Sketches include the whole of the poems on pp. 1-28, to which Blake, or perhaps Mathew, gives the title 'Miscellaneous Poems.' The other pieces fall somewhat outside the scope of this edition, but are supplied in an appendix in order that the reader may be enabled to judge of Blake's first volume in its entirety. The 'Poems from the Poetical Sketches' together with the pieces in the first Appendix give therefore, in their proper order, the whole contents of the book.
In a second Appendix I have placed two short poems, 'Song by a Shepherd' and 'Song by an Old Shepherd.' These songs are not printed among the poems in the Poetical Sketches, but were found in Blake's handwriting on the fly-leaves of a copy which was lent to Mr. Basil Montague Pickering, the publisher, about 1868. They clearly belong to the same period as the Poetical Sketches, though all Blake's editors arrange them among poems written in a different manner and at a much later date. First printed by R. H. Shepherd in Pickering's editions of 1868 and 1874, where they are placed at the end of the poems from the Pickering MS., they were apparently unknown to D. G. Rossetti, and (as Pickering's copyright) could not be included in W. M. Rossetti's Aldine edition.
Selections from the Poetical Sketches were first given by Malkin and Cunningham, the former printing 'How sweet I roam'd from field to field,' and the latter the 'Address to the Muses,' with a few passages from 'King Edward the Third.' D. G. Rossetti, in the selection given in Gilchrist's Life, prints six of the eight songs (excluding the two last), 'To the Muses,' 'To the Evening Star,' ' To Spring,' 'To Summer,' 'Blind-man's Buff,' and selections from scenes i, iii, v, and vi of 'King Edward the Third.' R. H. Shepherd prints the whole book with his customary accuracy, separately in 1868 as a supplementary volume to the Songs of Innocence and of Experience, and together with that work in the edition of 1874. W. M. Rossetti and later editors have availed themselves of this excellent text. Shepherd makes a few trifling corrections; he omits Blake's general heading 'Miscellaneous Poems' and inserts a half-title to 'King Edward the Third' which is not in the original. W. M. Rossetti places the pieces in an order of his own and omits the prose, with the exception of the 'Prologue to King John' and 'Samson' which he prints as blank verse. Ellis and Yeats follow the Aldine edition, omitting 'Samson.' W. B. Yeats omits 'Fair Elinor,' 'Gwin of Norway,' the two prologues, 'The Couch of Death,' 'Contemplation,' and 'Samson.' There is an excellent facsimile reproduction of the Poetical Sketches (fifty copies printed by W. Griggs in May, 1890).
POEMS FROM POETICAL SKETCHES
O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down 1
Thro' the clear windows of the morning, turn
Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!
The hills tell each other, and the list'ning5
Vallies hear; all our longing eyes are turned
Up to thy bright pavillions: issue forth,
And let thy holy feet visit our clime.
Come o'er the eastern hills, and let our winds9
Kiss thy perfumed garments; let us taste
Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
Upon our love-sick land that mourns for thee.
O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour13
Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put
Thy golden crown upon her languish'd head,
Whose modest tresses were bound up for thee!
Poetical Sketches, pp. 1, 2.
5 tell each] do tell each DGR: tell to each EY. 7 pavillions] pavilion DGR. 14 soft] softest DGR.
O thou who passest thro' our vallies in1
Thy strength, curb thy fierce steeds, allay the heat
That flames from their large nostrils! thou, O Summer,
Oft pitched'st here thy golden tent, and oft
Beneath our oaks hast slept, while we beheld5
With joy thy ruddy limbs and flourishing hair.
Poetical Sketches, p. 2.
6 ruddy… hair] Cp. MS. Book, xxv.
'Abstinence sows sand all over
The ruddy limbs & flaming hair.'
Beneath our thickest shades we oft have heard
Thy voice, when noon upon his fervid car
Rode o'er the deep of heaven; beside our springs
Sit down, and in our mossy vallies, on 10
Some bank beside a river clear, throw thy
Silk draperies off, and rush into the stream:
Our vallies love the Summer in his pride.
Our bards are fam'd who strike the silver wire:
Our youth are bolder than the southern swains:15
Our maidens fairer in the sprightly dance:
We lack not songs, nor instruments of joy,
Nor echoes sweet, nor waters clear as heaven.
Nor laurel wreaths against the sultry heat.
11 thy] all DGR. 12 Silk] Thy DGR. 15 youth] youths DGR.
O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained 1
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may'st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance! 5
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.
'The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest eve,10
Till clust'ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather'd clouds strew flowers round her head.
'The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.'15
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o'er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.
Poetical Sketches, p. 3.
'O Winter! bar thine adamantine doors:1
The north is thine; there hast thou built thy dark
Deep-founded habitation. Shake not thy roofs,
Nor bend thy pillars with thine iron car.'
He hears me not, but o'er the yawning deep5
Rides heavy; his storms are unchain'd, sheathed
In ribbèd steel; I dare not lift mine eyes,
For he hath rear'd his sceptre o'er the world.
Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings9
To his strong bones, strides o'er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.
He takes his seat upon the cliffs,—the mariner13
Cries in vain. Poor little wretch, that deal'st
With storms!—till heaven smiles, and the monster
Is driv'n yelling to his caves beneath mount Hecla.
Poetical Sketches, p. 4.
-4 no quotation marks in original. 15, 16 and the monster . . . mount Hecla]
and drives the monster
Yelling beneath Mount Hecla to his caves. EY.
To the Evening Star
Thou fair-hair'd angel of the evening,1
Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light
Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
Smile on our loves, and while thou drawest the5
Poetical Sketches, p. 5.
bright] brilliant DGR, EY. 5, 6 while . . . dew;]
whilst thou drawest round
The curtains of the sky, scatter thy dew. DGR.
while thou drawest round
The sky's blue curtains, scatter silver dew. Swinb.
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon, 10
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And the lion glares thro' the dun forest:
The fleeces of our flocks are cover'd with
Thy sacred dew: protect them with thine influence.
6. silver] EY omit. 7 shuts] closes DGR, Swinb., EY. 12 And the] And then the DGR, EY, WBY. 14 protect . . . influence] protect with influence EY.
O holy virgin! clad in purest white, 1
Unlock heav'n's golden gates, and issue forth;
Awake the dawn that sleeps in heaven; let light
Rise from the chambers of the east, and bring
The honied dew that cometh on waking day. 3
O radiant morning, salute the sun
Rouz'd like a huntsman to the chace, and with
Thy buskin'd feet appear upon our hills.
Poetical Sketches, p. 6.
The bell struck one, and shook the silent tower; 1
The graves give up their dead: fair Elenor
Walk'd by the castle gate, and looked in.
A hollow groan ran thro' the dreary vaults.
Poetical Sketches, pp. 7-10. The theme of this very juvenile poem was evidently suggested by Walpole's 'Gothic story,' The Castle of Otranto, first published in 1765. Compare the incident in the first chapter, where Isabella descends into the vaults of the Castle, and shrieks on meeting what she believes to be the ghost of Conrad.
She shriek'd aloud, and sunk upon the steps, 5
On the cold stone her pale cheeks. Sickly smells
Of death issue as from a sepulchre,
And all is silent but the sighing vaults.
Chill death withdraws his hand, and she revives; 9
Amaz'd, she finds herself upon her feet,
And, like a ghost, thro' narrow passages
Walking, feeling the cold walls with her hands.
Fancy returns, and now she thinks of bones 13
And grinning skulls, and corruptible death
Wrap'd in his shroud; and now fancies she hears
Deep sighs, and sees pale sickly ghosts gliding.
At length, no fancy but reality 17
Distracts her. A rushing sound, and the feet
Of one that fled, approaches.—Ellen stood
Like a dumb statue, froze to stone with fear.
The wretch approaches, crying: 'The deed is done; 21
Take this, and send it by whom thou wilt send;
It is my life—send it to Elenor:—
He 's dead, and howling after me for blood!
'Take this,' he cry'd; and thrust into her arms 25
A wet napkin, wrap'd about; then rush'd
Past, howling: she receiv'd into her arms
Pale death, and follow'd on the wings of fear.
They pass'd swift thro' the outer gate; the wretch 29
Howling, leap'd o'er the wall into the moat.
Stifling in mud. Fair Ellen pass'd the bridge,
And heard a gloomy voice cry 'Is it done?'
As the deer wounded, Ellen flew over 33
The pathless plain; as the arrows that fly
By night, destruction flies, and strikes in darkness.
She fled from fear, till at her house arriv'd.
6. cheeks] cheek all edd.
Her maids await her; on her bed she falls, 37
That bed of joy, where erst her lord hath press'd:
'Ah, woman's fear! ' she cry'd; ' Ah, cursed duke!
Ah, my dear lord! ah, wretched Elenor!
'My lord was like a flower upon the brows 41
Of lusty May! Ah, life as frail as flower!
O ghastly death! withdraw thy cruel hand,
Seek'st thou that flow'r to deck thy horrid temples?
'My lord was like a star in highest heav'n 45
Drawn down to earth by spells and wickedness;
My lord was like the opening eyes of day
When western winds creep softly o'er the flowers;
'But he is darken'd; like the summer's noon 49
Clouded; fall'n like the stately tree, cut down;
The breath of heaven dwelt among his leaves.
O Elenor, weak woman, fill'd with woe! '
Thus having spoke, she raised up her head, 53
And saw the bloody napkin by her side,
Which in her arms she brought; and now, tenfold
More terrified, saw it unfold itself.
Her eyes were fix'd; the bloody cloth unfolds, 57
Disclosing to her sight the murder'd head
Of her dear lord, all ghastly pale, clotted
With gory blood; it groan'd, and thus it spake:
'0 Elenor, I am thy husband's head, 61
Who, sleeping on the stones of yonder tower,
Was 'reft of life by the accursed duke!
A hired villain turn'd my sleep to death!
'O Elenor, beware the cursed duke; 65
O give not him thy hand, now I am dead;
He seeks thy love; who, coward, in the night,
Hired a villain to bereave my life.'
47 eyes] eye Swinb. 49 summer's] summer Swinb. 61 I am] behold all edd. 68 Hired . . . life.] This line is repeated by Blake
She sat with dead cold limbs, stiffen'd to stone; 69
She took the gory head up in her arms;
She kiss'd the pale lips; she had no tears to shed;
She hugg'd it to her breast, and groan'd her last.
In one of his epigrams on Hayley (MS. Book, Ixxviii). Blake's use of 'bereave' as a transitive verb is perhaps imitative of the line quoted by him, from Chaucer, in his Descriptive Catalogue:
'Hath me bireft my beauty and my pith.'
How sweet I roam'd from field to field 1
And tasted all the summer's pride,
'Till I the prince of love beheld
Who in the sunny beams did glide!
He shew'd me lilies for my hair, 5
And blushing roses for my brow;
He led me through his gardens fair
Where all his golden pleasures grow.
With sweet May dews my wings were wet, 9
And Phoebus fir'd my vocal rage;
He caught me in his silken net.
And shut me in his golden cage.
He loves to sit and hear me sing, 13
Then, laughing, sports and plays with me;
Then stretches out my golden wing,
And mocks my loss of liberty.
Poetical Sketches, p. 10. According to Malkin (pp. xxxiv, xxxvi), who quotes this poem, it was written by Blake before the age of fourteen. 12 golden cage] Cp. Island in the Moon (c. 1785) iii:
'Come & be cured of all your pains
In Matrimony's Golden cage.'
My silks and fine array, 1
My smiles and languish'd air,
By love are driv'n away;
And mournful lean Despair
Brings me yew to deck my grave: 5
Such end true lovers have.
His face is fair as heav'n
When springing buds unfold;
O why to him was't giv'n
Whose heart is wintry cold? 10
His breast is love's all worship'd tomb,
Where all love's pilgrims come.
Bring me an axe and spade,
Bring me a winding sheet;
When I my grave have made 15
Let winds and tempests beat:
Then down I'll lie as cold as clay.
True love doth pass away!
Poetical Sketches, p. 11.
Love and harmony combine, 1
And around our souls intwine
While thy branches mix with mine,
And our roots together join.
Joys upon our branches sit, 5
Chirping loud and singing sweet;
Like gentle streams beneath our feet
Innocence and virtue meet.
Poetical Sketches, p. 12.
intwine] entwine all except Shep.
Thou the golden fruit dost bear, 9
I am clad in flowers fair ;
Thy sweet boughs perfume the air,
And the turtle buildeth there.
There she sits and feeds her young, 13
Sweet I hear her mournful song ;
And thy lovely leaves among,
There is love, I hear her tongue.
There his charming nest doth lay, 17
There he sleeps the night away ;
There he sports along the day.
And doth among our branches play.
16. her] An obvious misprint for 'his.' All Blake's editors make the necessary correction. 17 charming . . . lay,] charm'd nest he doth lay, DGR.
I love the jocund dance, 1
The softly-breathing song,
Where innocent eyes do glance,
And where lisps the maiden's tongue.
I love the laughing vale, 5
I love the echoing hill,
Where mirth does never fail,
And the jolly swain laughs his fill.
I love the pleasant cot, 9
I love the innocent bow'r.
Where white and brown is our lot,
Or fruit in the mid-day hour.
I love the oaken seat, 13
Beneath the oaken tree,
Where all the old villagers meet.
And laugh our sports to see.
Poetical Sketches, p. 13.
4. And where] Where DGR. 5 vale] gale Malk.
I love our neighbours all, 17
But, Kitty, I better love thee;
And love them I ever shall;
But thou art all to me.
Memory, hither come, 1
And tune your merry notes:
And, while upon the wind
Your music floats,
I'll pore upon the stream 5
Where sighing lovers dream.
And fish for fancies as they pass
Within the watery glass.
I'll drink of the clear stream,
And hear the linnet's song; 10
And there I'll lie and dream
The day along:
And when night comes, I'll go
To places fit for woe.
Walking along the darken'd valley 15
With silent Melancholy.
Poetical Sketches, p. 14.
The wild winds weep, 1
And the night is a-cold;
Come hither. Sleep,
And my griefs unfold:
But lo! the morning peeps 5
Over the eastern steeps,
And the rustling beds of dawn
The earth do scorn.
Poetical Sketches, p. 15. unfold] infold Shep.; enfold WMR, EY, WBY. 7 beds] birds DGR, WBY.
Lo! to the vault
Of pavèd heaven, 10
With sorrow fraught
My notes are driven:
They strike the ear of night,
Make weep the eyes of day;
They make mad the roaring winds, 15
And with tempests play.
Like a fiend in a cloud,
With howling woe
After night I do croud,
And with night will go; 20
I turn my back to the east
From whence comforts have increas'd;
For light doth seize my brain
With frantic pain.
17. Like . . . cloud] Cp. ' Infant Sorrow' in the Songs of Experience:
'Helpless, haked, piping loud,
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.'
The picture was probably suggested in Blake's mind by passages in Macpherson's 'Ossian.' 22 From whence] Whence DGR.
Fresh from the dewy hill, the merry year 1
Smiles on my head and mounts his flaming car;
Round my young brows the laurel wreathes a shade,
And rising glories beam around my head.
My feet are wing'd, while o'er the dewy lawn, 5
I meet my maiden risen like the morn:
Oh bless those holy feet, like angels' feet;
Oh bless those limbs, beaming with heav'nly light.
Like as an angel glitt'ring in the sky 9
In times of innocence and holy joy;
The joyful shepherd stops his grateful song
To hear the music of an angel's tongue.
Poetical Sketches, p. 16.
5 like] with Gil. 6 angels'] angel's Gil. 9 Like as] As when Gil. 12 an] that Gil.
So when she speaks, the voice of Heaven I hear; 13
So when we walk, nothing impure comes near;
Each field seems Eden, and each calm retreat;
Each village seems the haunt of holy feet.
But that sweet village where my black-ey'd maid 17
Closes her eyes in sleep beneath night's shade,
Whene'er I enter, more than mortal fire
Burns in my soul, and does my song inspire.
When early morn walks forth in sober grey, 1
Then to my black ey'd maid I haste away;
When evening sits beneath her dusky bow'r.
And gently sighs away the silent hour,
The village bell alarms, away I go, 5
And the vale darkens at my pensive woe.
To that sweet village, where my black ey'd maid
Doth drop a tear beneath the silent shade,
I turn my eyes; and pensive as I go
Curse my black stars and bless my pleasing woe. 10
Oft when the summer sleeps among the trees,
Whisp'ring faint murmurs to the scanty breeze,
I walk the village round; if at her side
A youth doth walk in stolen joy and pride,
I curse my stars in bitter grief and woe, 15
That made my love so high and me so low.
O should she e'er prove false, his limbs I'd tear
And throw all pity on the burning air;
I'd curse bright fortune for my mixed lot,
And then I'd die in peace and be forgot. 20
Poetical Sketches, p. 17.
To the Muses
Whether on Ida's shady brow, 10
Or in the chambers of the East,
The chambers of the sun, that now
From antient melody have ceas'd;
Whether in Heav'n ye wander fair, 5
Or the green corners of the earth,
Or the blue regions of the air
Where the melodious winds have birth;
Whether on chrystal rocks ye rove, 9
Beneath the bosom of the sea
Wand'ring in many a coral grove,
Fair Nine, forsaking Poetry!
How have you left the antient love 13
That bards of old enjoy'd in you!
The languid strings do scarcely move!
The sound is forc'd, the notes are few!
Poetical Sketches, p. 18.
12 Poetry] poesie Cunn. 13 you] ye Cunn. 15 do] now Cunn.
Gwin, King of Norway
Come, Kings, and listen to my song: 1
When Gwin, the son of Nore,
Over the nations of the North
His cruel sceptre bore;
The Nobles of the land did feed 5
Upon the hungry Poor;
They tear the poor man's lamb, and drive
The needy from their door.
Poetical Sketches, pp. 19-23.
'The land is desolate; our wives 9
And children cry for bread;
Arise, and pull the tyrant down!
Let Gwin be humbled!'
Gordred the giant rous'd himself 13
From sleeping in his cave;
He shook the hills, and in the clouds
The troubl'd banners wave.
Beneath them roll'd, like tempests black, 17
The num'rous sons of blood;
Like lions' whelps, roaring abroad,
Seeking their nightly food.
Down Bleron's hills they dreadful rush, 21
Their cry ascends the clouds;
The trampling horse and clanging arms
Like rushing mighty floods!
Their wives and children, weeping loud, 25
Follow in wild array.
Howling like ghosts, furious as wolves
In the bleak wintry day.
' Pull down the tyrant to the dust, 29
Let Gwin be humbled,'
They cry, 'and let ten thousand lives
Pay for the tyrant's head.'
From tow'r to tow'r the watchmen cry, 33
' O Gwin, the son of Nore,
Arouse thyself! the nations, black
Like clouds, come rolling o'er!'
Gwin rear'd his shield, his palace shakes, 37
His chiefs come rushing round;
Each, like an awful thunder cloud,
With voice of solemn sound:
9-12 The . . . humbled] No quotation marks in original. 21 hills] hill EY.
Like rearèd stones around a grave 41
They stand around the King;
Then suddenly each seiz'd his spear,
And clashing steel does ring.
The husbandman does leave his plow 45
To wade thro' fields of gore;
The merchant binds his brows in steel,
And leaves the trading shore;
The shepherd leaves his mellow pipe, 49
And sounds the trumpet shrill;
The workman throws his hammer down
To heave the bloody bill.
Like the tall ghost of Barraton 53
Who sports in stormy sky,
Gwin leads his host, as black as night
When pestilence does fly,
With horses and with chariots—57
And all his spearmen bold
March to the sound of mournful song,
Like clouds around him roll'd.
Gwin lifts his hand—the nations halt; 61
'Prepare for war!' he cries—
Gordred appears!—his frowning brow
Troubles our northern skies.
The armies stand, like balances 65
Held in th' Almighty's hand;—
'Gwin, thou hast fill'd thy measure up:
Thou'rt swept from out the land.'
53 Barraton] Probably a reminiscence of 'Berrathon' in Macpherson's Ossian, a piece from which Blake would also seem to have borrowed the name 'Leutha' in the Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793).
And now the raging armies rush'd 69
Like warring mighty seas;
The Heav'ns are shook with roaring war,
The dust ascends the skies!
Earth smokes with blood, and groans and shakes 73
To drink her children's gore,
A sea of blood; nor can the eye
See to the trembling shore!
And on the verge of this wild sea 77
Famine and death doth cry;
The cries of women and of babes
Over the field doth fly.
The King is seen raging afar, 81
With all his men of might;
Like blazing comets scattering death
Thro' the red fev'rous night.
Beneath his arm like sheep they die, 85
And groan upon the plain;
The battle faints, and bloody men
Fight upon hills of slain.
Now death is sick, and riven men 89
Labour and toil for life;
Steed rolls on steed, and shield on shield,
Sunk in this sea of strife!
The god of war is drunk with blood; 93
The earth doth faint and fail;
The stench of blood makes sick the heav'ns;
Ghosts glut the throat of hell!
O what have Kings to answer for 97
Before that awful throne;
When thousand deaths for vengeance cry,
And ghosts accusing groan!
78, 80 doth] do WMR, EY.
Like blazing comets in the sky 101
That shake the stars of light,
Which drop like fruit unto the earth
Thro' the fierce burning night;
Like these did Gwin and Gordred meet, 105
And the first blow decides;
Down from the brow unto the breast
Gordred his head divides!
Gwin fell: the Sons of Norway fled, 109
All that remain'd alive;
The rest did fill the vale of death,
For them the eagles strive.
The river Dorman roll'd their blood 113
Into the northern sea;
Who mourn'd his sons, and overwhelm'd
The pleasant south country.
An Imitation of Spencer
Golden Apollo, that thro' heaven wide 1
Scatter'st the rays of light, and truth's beams,
In lucent words my darkling verses dight,
And wash my earthy mind in thy clear streams,
That wisdom may descend in fairy dreams, 5
All while the jocund hours in thy train
Scatter their fancies at thy poet's feet;
And when thou yields to night thy wide domain,
Let rays of truth enlight his sleeping brain.
Poetical Sketches, pp. 24-26. This piece has not the air of being one of Blake's earliest efforts, in spite of its metrical faults. Representing the Spenserian stanza by the formula ababbcbcC, Blake's successive attempts are: ababbcbcc, ababbcbcB, aiabbcbB, ababbabb, ababbcbcb, ababbcbcbB—all different and all wrong.
Title] All edd. correct Spencer to Spenser. 2 truth's] truth his all cold. 8 yields] yield'st all edd.
For brutish Pan in vain might thee assay 10
With tinkling sounds to dash thy nervous verse,
Sound without sense; yet in his rude affray,
(For ignorance is Folly's leesing nurse
And love of Folly needs none other's curse)
Midas the praise hath gain'd of lengthen'd cares, 15
For which himself might deem him ne'er the worse
To sit in council with his modern peers,
And judge of tinkling rhimes and elegances terse.
And thou, Mercurius, that with wingèd brow
Dost mount aloft into the yielding sky, 20
And thro' Heav'n's halls thy airy flight dost throw,
Entering with holy feet to where on high
Jove weighs the counsel of futurity;
Then, laden with eternal fate, dost go
Down, like a falling star, from autumn sky, 25
And o'er the surface of the silent deep dost fly:
If thou arrivest at the sandy shore
Where nought but envious hissing adders dwell,
Thy golden rod, thrown on the dusty floor.
Can charm to harmony with potent spell. 30
Such is sweet Eloquence, that does dispel
Envy and Hate that thirst for human gore;
And cause in sweet society to dwell
Vile savage minds that lurk in lonely cell.
O Mercury, assist my lab'ring sense 35
That round the circle of the world wou'd fly.
As the wing'd eagle scorns the tow'ry fence
Of Alpine hills round his high aëry,
And searches thro' the corners of the sky.
Sports in the clouds to hear the thunder's sound, 40
And see the wingèd lightnings as they fly;
Then, bosom'd in an amber cloud, around
Plumes his wide wings, and seeks Sol's palace high.
13 leesing nurse] Read, with all Blake's editors, leasing nurse, i.e. one who holds her charge in a lease or leash. 15 cares] All edd. correct this misprint for ears. 19 brow] bow all edd.
And thou, O warrior maid invincible,
Arm'd with the terrors of Almighty Jove, 45
Pallas, Minerva, maiden terrible,
Lov'st thou to walk the peaceful solemn grove,
In solemn gloom of branches interwove?
Or bear'st thy Egis o'er the burning field.
Where, like the sea, the waves of battle move? 50
Or have thy soft piteous eyes beheld
The weary wanderer thro' the desert rove?
Or does th' afflicted man thy heav'nly bosom move?
When silver Snow decks Susan's cloaths, 1
And jewel hangs at th' shepherd's nose,
The blushing bank is all my care,
With hearth so red, and walls so fair;
'Heap the sea-coal, come, heap it higher, 5
The oaken log lay on the fire;'
The well-wash'd stools, a circling row,
With lad and lass, how fair the show!
The merry can of nut-brown ale.
The laughing jest, the love-sick tale, 10
'Till, tir'd of chat, the game begins.
The lasses prick the lads with pins;
Roger from Dolly twitch'd the stool.
She, falling, kiss'd the ground, poor fool!
She blush'd so red, with side-long glance 15
At hob-nail Dick, who griev'd the chance.
But now for Blind-man's Buff they call;
Of each incumbrance clear the hall—
Jenny her silken 'kerchief folds.
And blear-ey'd Will the black lot holds. 20
Poetical Sketches, pp. 26-28,
1, 2 When . . . nose] Compare the opening lines of 'Song by an Old Shepherd' (Appendix II):—
'When silver snow decks Sylvia's clothes,
And jewel hangs at shepherd's nose.'
3 blushing bank] chimney nook DGR.
Now laughing stops, with 'Silence! hush!'
And Peggy Pout gives Sam a push.
The Blind-man's arms, extended wide,
Sam slips between:—'O woe betide
Thee, clumsy Will!'—but titt'ring Kate 25
Is pen'd up in the corner strait!
And now Will's eyes beheld the play;
He thought his face was t'other way.
'Now, Kitty, now! what chance hast thou,
Roger so near thee!—Trips, I vow! ' 30
She catches him—then Roger ties
His own head up—but not his eyes;
For thro' the slender cloth he sees,
And runs at Sam, who slips with ease
His clumsy hold; and, dodging round, 35
Sukey is tumbled on the ground!—
'See what it is to play unfair!
Where cheating is, there's mischief there.'
But Roger still pursues the chace,—
'He sees! he sees!' cries softly Grace; 40
'O Roger, thou, unskill'd in art,
Must, surer bound, go thro' thy part!'
Now Kitty, pert, repeats the rhymes,
And Roger turns him round three times,
29-31 Now . . . him] This seems to be the sense intended by the faulty punctuation of the original:
'Now, Kitty, now; what chance hast thou,
Roger so near thee, Trips; I vow!
She catches him—'
'Now, Kitty, now! what chance hast thou!
Roger so near thee trips!—I vow
She catches him!—'
'"Now, Kitty, now; what chance hast thou,
Roger so near thee trips, I vow!
She catches him—'
WMR, EY, and WBY:
'"Now, Kitty, now! what chance hast thou?
Roger so near thee trips, I vow!"
She catches him—'
Then pauses ere he starts—but Dick 45
Was mischief bent upon a trick;
Down on his hands and knees he lay-
Directly in the Blind-man's way,
Then cries out 'Hem!' Hodge heard, and ran
With hood-wink'd chance—sure of his man; 50
But down he came.—Alas, how frail
Our best of hopes, how soon they fail!
With crimson drops he stains the ground;
Confusion startles all around.
Poor piteous Dick supports his head, 55
And fain would cure the hurt he made;
But Kitty hasted with a key,
And down his back they strait convey
The cold relief; the blood is stay'd.
And Hodge again holds up his head. 60
Such are the fortunes of the game,
And those who play should stop the same
By wholesome laws; such as all those
Who on the blinded man impose
Stand in his stead; as, long a-gone, 65
When men were first a nation grown,
Lawless they liv'd, till wantonness
And liberty began t' increase,
And one man lay in another's way;
Then laws were made to keep fair play. 70
57 hasted] hastens DGR. 65 as] So DGR.