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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

William Blake: Some Angels ("Everything is an attempt/To be Human")


Large image

Jacob's Ladder, or Jacob's Dream (detail): William Blake, illustration to the Bible painted for Thomas Butts, c. 1799-1807 (British Museum)

I askèd a thief to steal me a peach:
He turnèd up his eyes.
I asked a lithe lady to lie her down:
Holy and meek, she cries.

As soon as I went
An angel came.
He wink'd at the thief
And smil'd at the dame;

And without one word said
Had a peach from the tree,
And still as a maid
Enjoy'd the lady.


I heard an Angel singing
When the day was springing:
'Mercy, Pity, Peace
Is the world's release.'

Thus he sang all day
Over the new-mown hay,
Till the sun went down,
And haycocks lookèd brown.

I heard a Devil curse
Over the heath and the furze:
'Mercy could be no more,
If there was nobody poor,

'And pity no more could be,
If all were as happy as we.'
At his curse the sun went down,
And the heavens gave a frown.

Down pour'd the heavy rain
Over the new reap'd grain;
And Misery's increase
Is Mercy, Pity, Peace.

William Blake: "I askèd...", "I heard...": ms. poems, from notebook, 1791-1792
It is not because angels are holier than men or devils that makes them angels, but because they do not expect holiness from one another, but from God alone.
William Blake: A Vision of the Last Judgement, 1806


aditya said...

Oh my heart goes down reading both these poems together. And watching those pictures too. The presence of the poem's gay blessed lyric effects is a scourge for the reader

And Misery's increase
Is Mercy, Pity, Peace.

oh oh oh .. Lord!

TC said...

Save us!



I heard an Angel singing
When the day was springing. . .
. . .
Down poured the heavy rain. . .


pink edge of cloud above still shadowed
plane of ridge, quail calling Chi-ca-go
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

clouds easier to see source
of light, to do these

is being present, each “now”
in its passing, which

grey rain cloud against invisible ridge,
whiteness of gull gliding above channel

Chris said...

These poems and pictures make me want to put down everything I am doing and go -- out.


TC said...


All, after all,

is being present, each “now”
in its passing, which


I hope it's good out there.

ACravan said...

This is difficult to express accurately (and I apologize in advance if it sounds incoherent), but what I like most about this aren't the ironic "conclusions" reached, but the "process", i.e., the way the good and evil angels more resemble each other as entities experiencing the same difficult thing than they appear to be opposites, and the way the thwarted tortured figures in plates 1 and 3 seem (plate 1 especially) to embody some positive as well as negative aspects of human experience. (I told you this would be difficult to express accurately.) I love the drawing and the colors also. Curtis

TC said...

Curtis, actually I think you've expressed the unique merging of the dichotomies in Blake's vision of angel(s) not only accurately but splendidly.

Augie said...

I like your entries, the depictions especially. Blake still is not taken seriously enough for his art: such is the fate of visionaries. I hope you keep posting. For postings of a similar vein, tapping the unsayable: