...Folly is an endless maze;Tangled roots perplex her ways;How many have fallen there!They stumble all night over bones of the dead;And feel — they know not what but care;And wish to lead others, when they should be led.-- William Blake, "The Voice of the Ancient Bard"
The smile of a child. The face of a lamb. The purity of maternal love. Solidarity. These are images chosen by Blake to convey his thoughts on innocence. When I think of innocence, I cannot help picturing in my head the greenest meadows, sheltered by the warm light of the sun, and the sound of a nearby river serving as a mirror to reflect your own thoughts. Such an idyllic setting is an invitation to contemplate your own soul. For me, the countryside is where anything can happen. I feel hopeful. I find rest. I make time stand still; I see bliss. And I accept the countryside's cruelty on a dark, rainy day. That is the inevitable dichotomy of any form of life.
Innocence. To see the world through the eyes of a child. Something so necessary, and so distant. Something that we lose too soon, now.
Simply too soon.
When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy,
And the dimpling stream runs laughing by;
When the air does laugh with our merry wit,
And the green hill laughs with the noise of it;
When the meadows laugh with lively green,
And the grasshopper laughs in the merry scene;
When Mary and Susan and Emily
With their sweet round mouths sing 'Ha ha he!'
When the painted birds laugh in the shade,
Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread:
Come live, and be merry, and join with me,
To sing the sweet chorus of 'Ha ha he!' (10)
The sun descending in the West,
The evening star does shine;
The birds are silent in their nest,
And I must seek for mine.
The moon, like a flower
In heaven's high bower,
With silent delight,
Sits and smiles on the night.
Farewell, green fields and happy groves,
Where flocks have took delight,
Where lambs have nibbled, silent moves
The feet of angels bright;
Unseen, they pour blessing,
And joy without ceasing,
On each bud and blossom,
And each sleeping bosom... (14)
Different perspectives. The pain of adulthood. The fight between love and selfishness. The corruption of innocence and our salvation. Our preservation: the world will not eat us alive—apparently. The fear of what is to come. Of the unknown. The gray despair of aging. These are some of the images of Blake's Experience.
The Clod and the Pebble
'Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a heaven in hell's despair.'
So sung a little clod of clay,
Trodden with the cattle's feet,
But a pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:
'Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven's despite.' (23)
Ah, sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller's journey is done;
Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go! (36)
I wander through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
A mark in every face I meet,
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
In every cry of every man,
In every infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear:
How the chimney-sweeper's cry
Every blackening church appals,
And the hapless soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down palace-walls.
But most, through midnight streets I hear
How the youthful harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the marriage hearse. (40)