HOW THE 'POETIC SKETCHES' ARE EDITED HERE
These 'Poetic Sketches' are here printed in the same order as in the little volume published by Blake's friends, with only his initials on the title-page, in the year 1783. The two prose fragments called 'The Couch of Death ' and 'Contemplation' are reproduced in the places then chosen for them, just as they were there printed. They would not perhaps be considered at the present day to have any right to inclusion among poetic works, even as 'sketches.' 'Samson,' which follows them, is evidently a poem. Yet it was printed at the end of this volume as prose. A good many of the lines were imperfect. While sorting them up as verses, it has been necessary to do for Blake what he cannot be held blameless for not endeavouring to do for himself, and verbal emendations have been made. The original text is still obtainable through Mr. Quaritch's facsimile, and elsewhere. But those who desire to compare it with the present text, without putting down this volume, can do so by the following:—
For the last line but one of the first paragraph read,—
'To write as on a lofty rock with iron pens,'
which, however fine as a line, is evidently not in the metre of the poem.
In the second paragraph almost every line has an annoying and careless slip left in, and the total effect is so worrying that it may safely be said that no one but a student would willingly go through it in its unamended form. On the other hand, no one can read with any pleasure a poem of Blake's that has been touched up by some one else unless he knows just what it would have been if not so treated. The following is the unrestored reading of the second paragraph, only divided into lines, the words as in the original: —
Now Night, noontide of damned spirits,
Over the silent earth spreads her pavilion,