The poetical works of William Blake; a new and verbatim text from the manuscript engraved and letterpress originals/Songs of Innocence and of Experience

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With variorum readings and bibliographical notes and prefaces. Other versions: Poetical Sketches





The Author & Printer, W. Blake

The engraved title to the Songs of Experience, when pubHshed either in conjunction with the Songs of Innocence or separately. The plate is printed on the recto of the leaf, facing the frontispiece of the Shepherd on the verso of the preceding leaf.

Reprinted in Gilchrist's Life (ii. end) from an electrotype of the original plate. This title-page would appear to have been twice engraved by Blake. In Gilchrist's reprint the date 1794 is omitted and the cross stroke to the letter f has a downward instead of an upward curve. In some copies the date has evidently been inserted by hand.


1Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future, sees;
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word
That walk'd among the ancient trees,

6Calling the lapsed Soul,
And weeping in the evening dew;
That might control!
The starry pole,
And fallen fallen light renew!
11'O Earth, O Earth, return!
Arise from out the dewy grass;
Night is worn.
And the morn
Rises from the slumberous mass.

16'Turn away no more;
Why wilt thou turn away?
The starry floor,
The wat'ry shore,
Is giv'n thee till the break of day.'

One engraved plate. Not found in any MS. version. Closely connected with this poem are 'The Voice of the Ancient Bard, ' by which it is immediately preceded in some copies of the Songs, and 'Earth's Answer,' by which it is followed in all copies.

1-10] Swinb. prints as a single stanza. 4 Holy] 5 ancient Swinb. ancient] silent Swinb. 11-20] Swinb. prints as a single stanza. 18 floor] shore Swinb. 19 shore] floor Swinb. 20 Is] Are Swinb., WMR, EY.

Earth's Answer

1Earth rais'd up her head
From the darkness dread & drear.
Her h'ght fled,
Stony dread !
And her locks cover'd with grey despair.
6'Prison'd on wat'ry shore,
Starry Jealousy does keep my den : Cold and hoar,
Weeping o'er
I hear the father of the ancient men.

11'Selfish father of men!
Cruel, jealous, selfish fear!

'The Earth's Answer' (MS. Book) first word deleted. Engraved on a single plate from what is obviously the original draft in the MS. Book (p. 111 reversed). Cp. the lines immediately preceding this poem in the MS Book, beginning: —

'Why art thou silent & invisible,
Father of Jealousy?'

Cp. also the final stanza oi Ahania {engraved 1795): —

'But now alone, over rocks, mountains,
Cast out from thy lovely bosom
Cruel jealousy, selfish fear,
Self-destroying ; how can delight
Renew in these chains of darkness
Where bones of beasts are strown,
On the bleak and snowy mountains
Where bones from the birth are buried
Before they see the light?'

3 Her . . . fled] Blake's successive changes of this line are : —

Her eyes fled
orbs dead
light fled (pencil).

4 Stony dread !] Punctuation as in MS. Book and engraved Songs ; (Stony dread !) DGR ; Stony, dread, WMR, EY, WBY. 6 Prison'd . . . shore] Prisoned on this watery shore Swinb. 7 my den :] Punctuation as in Wilk., Shep.; so also in Swinb. Essay, p. 118; other edd. read . . . my den Cold and hoar; 10 father of the] del. in MS. Bk. and replaced by some illegible word erased. 11-15 MS. Book cancelled. The original rime-arrangement abaab breaks down in this and the next stanza. 11 Selfish] Cruel MS. Book 1st rdg. del. 12 selfish] weeping MS. Book 1st rdg. del.

Can delight,
Chain'd in night,
The virgins of youth and morning bear?
16'Does spring hide its joy
When buds and blossoms grow?
Does the sower
Sow by night,
Or the plowman in darkness plow?

21'Break this heavy chain
That does freeze my bones around.
Selfish! vain!
Eternal bane!
That free Love with bondage bound.'

14 Chain'd] Clog'd MS. Book 1st rdg. del. 16-20 This stanza was an addition written in place of the third, which Blake cancelled, but restored when engraving. 16 joy] delight MS. Book 1st rdg. del. 18, 19 Does . . . night] Does the sower sow His seed by night MS. Book 1st rdg. del.: Can the sower sow by night Swinb. 22 freeze] close MS. Book 1st rdg. del. 24, 25 Eternal . . . bound] Thou, my bane Hast my love with bondage bound MS. Book 1st rdg. del.

Nurse's Song

5When the voices of children are heard on the green
And whisp'rings are in the dale.
The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,
My face turns green and pale.

5Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Your spring & your day are wasted in play.
And your winter and night in disguise.

Engraved without material change from a fair copy (without title) in the MS. Book (p. 109 reversed). Nurse's Song] No apostrophe in original;

Nurse's Song] Wilk. 3 my] R1 omits. rise] are MS. Book. 4 My] And my R1. green] grave R1.

The Fly

1Little Fly,
Thy summer's play
My thoughtless hand
Has brush'd away.
5Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

9For I dance,
And drink, & sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

Engraved on a single plate, in double columns, from what is evidently the first draft, without title, on p. 101 of the MS. Book. An uncompleted and deleted stanza shows that before hitting upon this felicitous tiny metre Blake began to write the song in a less sprightly strain —

'Woe! alas! my guilty hand
Brush'd across thy summer joy;
All thy gilded painted pride
Shatter'd, fled ... '

He then turned to the shorter metre, preserving the ' guilty hand ' in the first draft of stanza 1. Then follows a deleted stanza, omitted by him in the engraved version, probably because, since writing the poem, he had used its first two lines as one of his * Proverbs of Hell ' {Marriage of Heaven and Hell):

'The cut worm
Forgives the plow,
And dies in peace,
And so do thou.'

Then come the second, third, and fifth stanzas in their present form, followed by two versions of stanza four, which is an afterthought. Blake then prefixed numbers to the stanzas indicating their present order. A few trifling deviations from the engraved text are given in the footnotes.

2 summer's] summer MS. Book. 3 thoughtless] guilty MS. Book 1st rdg. del. 8 A pictorial representation of the same idea occurs in The Gates of Paradise (engraved 1793, from the original pencil sketches in the MS. Book), in which a youth, hat in hand, chases a butterfly of human shape, labile another, which he has just struck down, lies crushed at his feet. Below is the inscription 'Alas!' Cp. also Milton, f. 18, ll. 27-30.

5The Sexes sprung from Shame & Pride
Blow'd in the morn; in evening died;
But Mercy chang'd Death into Sleep;
The Sexes rose to work & weep.

9Thou Mother of my Mortal part
With cruelty didst mould my Heart,
And with false self-decieving tears
Didst bind my Nostrils, Eyes, & Ears;

13Didst close my Tongue in senseless clay,
And me to Mortal Life betray:
The Death of Jesus set me free:
Then what have I to do with thee?

preying upon and pitying her victims, and perverting the mild influences of the lovely Enitharman, or Space: cp. Milton, f. 20, 11. 41-45: —

'Rahab created Voltaire : Tirzah created Rousseau,
Asserting the Self-righteousness against the Universal Saviour,
Mocking the Confessors & Martyrs, claiming Self-righteousness
With cruel Virtue, making War upon the Lambs Redeemed
To perpetuate War & Glory, to perpetuate the Laws of Sin.'

Cf. also Swinburne, Essay, p. 122: '"Tirzah," in his mythology, represents the mere separate and human nature, mother of the perishing body and daughter of the "religion," which occupies itself with laying down laws for the flesh; which, while pretending (and that in all good faith) to despise the body and bring it into subjection as with control of bit and bridle, does implicitly overrate its power upon the soul for evil or good, and thus falls foul of fact on all sides by assuming that spirit and flesh are twain, and that things pleasant and good for the one can properly be loathsome or poisonous to the other.'

5 sprung] sprang DGR, WMR, EY. 6 Blow'd] Blown DGR, WMR, EY. 11 tears] fears Swinb. 12 bind] blind WBY.

The Voice of the Ancient Bard

1Youth of delight, come hither,
And see the opening morn,
Image of truth new-born.
Doubt is fled, & clouds of reason,
5Dark disputes & artful teazing.

Not in the MS. Book. This poem is generally found as one of the Songs of Innocence, though sometimes placed by Blake among the Songs of Experience. In all the early issues of the former it occurs as verso to ' The

Folly is an endless maze,
Tangled roots perplex her ways.
How many have fallen there!
They stumble all night over bones of the dead,
10And feel they know not what but care,
And wish to lead others, when they should be led.

Little Black Boy,' while in the latest issues it is commonly placed last, forming a connecting link with the Introduction to the Songs of Experience. See editor's Bibliographical Preface to the Songs.

9 stumble] tumble Muir's facsimile (Songs of Experience). 10 And . . . care] And feel — they know not what but care Wilk., WMR, EY, WBY: And feel— they know not what save care DGR. 11 when] where Muir's facsimiles.

My Pretty Rose Tree

1A flower was ofifer'd to me,
Such a flower as May never bore;
But I said ' I've a Pretty Rose-tree,'
And I passed the sweet flower o'er.
5Then I went to my Pretty Rose-tree,
To tend her by day and by night,
But my Rose turn'd away with jealousy,
And her thorns were my only delight.

The first poem in the MS. Book (on p. 115 reversed). Without title in the original draft. This and the two following songs are engraved upon a single plate, reprinted in Gilchrist's Life (ii, end).

4 passed] DGR, Shepherd and other editors ruin the melody of this line by reading 'passed' or 'pass'd' for 'passed.' It was Blake's almost invariable practice, not only in manuscript but in engraved poems, to omit the e of the final ed in the preterite or participial termination, where he did not intend it to be pronounced as a separate syllable. The only exception to this rule is in the case of words where the omission of the e might possibly lead to confusion with another word, e. g. 'pined' not 'pin'd.' 6 To ... by night] In the silence of the night MS. Book 1st rdg. del. her] it MS. Book 2nd rdg. R1. by night] R1 omits by. 7 turn'd] turned all except Shep.: turn'd . . . jealousy] was turnèd from me MS. Book 1st rdg. del. and replaced by was fillèd with Jealousy. 8 Blake's first version of this stanza seems to me preferable to that of the engraved Songs: —

'Then I went to my pretty rose tree
In the silence of the night ;
But my rose was turned from me.
And her thorns were my only delight.'

20Tired with kisses sweet
They agree to meet
When the silent sleep
Waves o'er heaven's deep,
And the weary tired wanderers weep.
25To her father white
Came the maiden bright ;
But his loving look,
Like the holy book.
All her tender limbs with terror shook.

30'Ona! pale and weak!
To thy father speak :
O! the trembling fear,
O! the dismal care,
That shakes the blossoms of my hoary hair!'

The Chimney Sweeper

1A little black thing among the snow,
Crying' 'weep! 'weep!' in notes of woe!
'Where are thy father & mother, say ?' —
'They are both gone up to the church to pray.

5'Because I was happy upon the heath,
And smil'd among the winter's snow,
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

Engraved on a single plate. The original draft of this song in the MS. Book shows that Blake at first intended the second and third stanzas (on p. 103 reversed) to form a poem complete in itself. The first stanza and title are an afterthought, written in pencil upon a diff"erent page (106 reversed).

Where . . . say] Where are they, father and mother, say? MS. Book. 4 to the church] to church MS. Book. 6 winter's snow] wintery wind [alt. to snow] MS. Book. 7 clothed] clothed MS. Book, orig., Shep. [= clothed]; cloth'd Wilk.; the rest clothed [ = cloth'd].

9'And because I am happy & dance & sing,
They think they have done me no injury,
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King,
Who make up a heaven of our misery.'

12 Who. . . misery] Who wrap themselves up in our misery MS. Book 1st rdg. del.

The Human Abstract

1Pity would be no more
If we did not make somebody Poor;
And Mercy no more could be
If all were as happy as we.
5And mutual fear brings peace,
Till the selfish loves increase;
Then Cruelty knits a snare.
And spreads his baits with care.
9He sits down with holy fears,
And waters the ground with tears;
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.

13Soon spreads the dismal shade
Of Mystery over his head;
And the Catterpiller and Fly
Feed on the Mystery.

17And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
Ruddy and sweet to eat;
And the Raven his nest has made
In its thickest shade.

Engraved on a single plate, reprinted in Gilchrist (ii. end) from the draft in the MS. Book (p. 107 reversed). The first title of the poem was 'The Earth.' This is erased, and 'The human Image' substituted: the present title is not in the MS. Book.

Compare with this song the fine variant version, beginning 'I heard an Angel singing,' MS. Book (p. 114 reversed).

I would] could MS. Book. 2 If there was nobody poor MS. Book 1st rdg. del. 9 with . . . fears] with his holy fears EY. 20 its] the Swinb. thickest] blackest MS. Book.

 21The Gods of the earth and sea
Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree;
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human Brain.

23, 24 'But their search was all in vain
Till they sought in the human brain.'

MS. Book 1st rdg. last line del.

The 'Tree of Mystery' signifies 'Moral Law.' See Jerusalem, f. 28, ll. 14-19: —

'He [Albion] sat by Tyburn's brook, and underneath his heel shot up
A deadly Tree: he nam'd it Moral Virtue, and the Law
Of God, who dwells in Chaos, hidden from the human sight.
The Tree spread over him its cold shadows (Albion groan'd),
They bent down, they felt the earth, and again enrooting
Shot into many a Tree, an endless labyrinth of woe.'

A very similar description of the growth of the Tree is found in Ahania (engr. 1795), chap, iii, thus condensed by Swinburne (Essay, p. 121): 'Compare the passage . . . where the growth of it is defined; rooted in the rock of separation, watered with the tears of a jealous God, shot up from sparks and fallen germs of material seed; being after all a growth of mere error, and vegetable (not spiritual) life; the topmost stem of it made into a cross whereon to nail the dead redeemer and friend of men.'


A Divine Image

1Cruelty has a Human Heart,
And Jealousy a Human Face ;
Terror the Human Form Divine,
And Secrecy the Human Dress.
5The Human Dress is forged Iron,
The Human Form a fiery Forge,
The Human Face a Furnace seal'd,
The Human Heart its hungry Gorge.

I place this poem as appendix to the Songs of Experience in the absence of evidence that it was included in any authentic copy of the Songs issued during Blake's lifetime. Out of fifteen examples of the Songs of Experience

known to me, one only, the uncoloured copy in the Reading Room of the British Museum, contains this plate, and there the watermark of the paper, which is dated 1832, proves that it must have been printed at least five years after Blake's death. The only other existing specimen of the engraved song is a proof impression (also uncoloured) in the possession of Mr. William Muir, which he has reproduced in facsimile at the end of his beautiful edition of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. It is quite clear that Blake engraved this poem with a view to its forming one of the Songs of Experience; and the total number of plates specified as belonging to this work in his prospectus 'To the Public' (see Bibliographical Preface to the Songs) would seem to show that this was his intention in October, 1793, when this advertisement was issued. It is fairly plain too that Blake rejected the plate without destroying it — perhaps because it was one of those which were engraved on both sides of the copper — leaving it possible for it to be inadvertently introduced into one or two copies which may have been printed when the plates passed into other hands, after the death of Mrs. Blake in October, 1831. This poem seems to have been unknown to Blake's first editor, Wilkinson, as well as to Gilchrist, who rightly represents 54 as the number of plates belonging to a complete set of both series of the Songs. It is first introduced into the Songs of Experience by R. H. Shepherd (1866), who probably took it from the posthumously printed copy which the British Museum had acquired two years before. Since then it has been included among the Songs without comment by W. M. Rossetti and all Blake's later editors, who follow Shepherd in placing it immediately after 'A Little Girl Lost.'