(Poem #368) Auguries of Innocence
To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. A Robin Red breast in a Cage Puts all Heaven in a Rage. A dove house fill'd with doves & Pigeons Shudders Hell thro' all its regions. A dog starv'd at his Master's Gate Predicts the ruin of the State. A Horse misus'd upon the Road Calls to Heaven for Human blood. Each outcry of the hunted Hare A fibre from the Brain does tear. A Skylark wounded in the wing, A Cherubim does cease to sing. The Game Cock clipp'd and arm'd for fight Does the Rising Sun affright. Every Wolf's & Lion's howl Raises from Hell a Human Soul. The wild deer, wand'ring here & there, Keeps the Human Soul from Care. The Lamb misus'd breeds public strife And yet forgives the Butcher's Knife. The Bat that flits at close of Eve Has left the Brain that won't believe. The Owl that calls upon the Night Speaks the Unbeliever's fright. He who shall hurt the little Wren Shall never be belov'd by Men. He who the Ox to wrath has mov'd Shall never be by Woman lov'd. The wanton Boy that kills the Fly Shall feel the Spider's enmity. He who torments the Chafer's sprite Weaves a Bower in endless Night. The Caterpillar on the Leaf Repeats to thee thy Mother's grief. Kill not the Moth nor Butterfly, For the Last Judgement draweth nigh. He who shall train the Horse to War Shall never pass the Polar Bar. The Beggar's Dog & Widow's Cat, Feed them & thou wilt grow fat. The Gnat that sings his Summer's song Poison gets from Slander's tongue. The poison of the Snake & Newt Is the sweat of Envy's Foot. The poison of the Honey Bee Is the Artist's Jealousy. The Prince's Robes & Beggars' Rags Are Toadstools on the Miser's Bags. A truth that's told with bad intent Beats all the Lies you can invent. It is right it should be so; Man was made for Joy & Woe; And when this we rightly know Thro' the World we safely go. Joy & Woe are woven fine, A Clothing for the Soul divine; Under every grief & pine Runs a joy with silken twine. The Babe is more than swaddling Bands; Throughout all these Human Lands Tools were made, & born were hands, Every Farmer Understands. Every Tear from Every Eye Becomes a Babe in Eternity. This is caught by Females bright And return'd to its own delight. The Bleat, the Bark, Bellow & Roar Are Waves that Beat on Heaven's Shore. The Babe that weeps the Rod beneath Writes Revenge in realms of death. The Beggar's Rags, fluttering in Air, Does to Rags the Heavens tear. The Soldier arm'd with Sword & Gun, Palsied strikes the Summer's Sun. The poor Man's Farthing is worth more Than all the Gold on Afric's Shore. One Mite wrung from the Labrer's hands Shall buy & sell the Miser's lands: Or, if protected from on high, Does that whole Nation sell & buy. He who mocks the Infant's Faith Shall be mock'd in Age & Death. He who shall teach the Child to Doubt The rotting Grave shall ne'er get out. He who respects the Infant's faith Triumph's over Hell & Death. The Child's Toys & the Old Man's Reasons Are the Fruits of the Two seasons. The Questioner, who sits so sly, Shall never know how to Reply. He who replies to words of Doubt Doth put the Light of Knowledge out. The Strongest Poison ever known Came from Caesar's Laurel Crown. Nought can deform the Human Race Like the Armour's iron brace. When Gold & Gems adorn the Plow To peaceful Arts shall Envy Bow. A Riddle or the Cricket's Cry Is to Doubt a fit Reply. The Emmet's Inch & Eagle's Mile Make Lame Philosophy to smile. He who Doubts from what he sees Will ne'er believe, do what you Please. If the Sun & Moon should doubt They'd immediately Go out. To be in a Passion you Good may do, But no Good if a Passion is in you. The Whore & Gambler, by the State Licenc'd, build that Nation's Fate. The Harlot's cry from Street to Street Shall weave Old England's winding Sheet. The Winner's Shout, the Loser's Curse, Dance before dead England's Hearse. Every Night & every Morn Some to Misery are Born. Every Morn & every Night Some are Born to sweet Delight. Some are Born to sweet Delight, Some are born to Endless Night. We are led to Believe a Lie When we see not Thro' the Eye Which was Born in a Night to Perish in a Night When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light. God Appears & God is Light To those poor Souls who dwell in the Night, But does a Human Form Display To those who Dwell in Realms of day.
Blake, even more than Milton, is the poet of Righteous Fury: at times, his indignation with all that is corrupt in his coutry and his religion spills unchecked into the pages of his work. Coupled with his vivid, often hallucinatory imagery and his deceptively simple syntax, this has resulted in a number of wonderful poems which are unparalleled in their power and honesty. So much so, in fact, that certain critics have bestowed upon him the title of 'Greatest Poet Ever'. While I think this is probably overstating it a bit (if for no other reason than that all such epithets are a waste of time, imho), I do agree that he can be absolutely amazing. 'Auguries of Innocence' is Blake at his most, errm, Blakean, so to speak - all his usual themes are stated, with a passion which would border on self-parody if it were not for the absolute firmness of his convictions, the strength of his beliefs. The language is simple, yet powerful; the thoughts are direct enough to make an impact, yet subtle enough to avoid being trite moralizings; the poem as a whole is a moral masterpiece. thomas. [Trivia] Several of the couplets in 'Auguries of Innocence' have achieved immortality, one way or another. "The Caterpillar on the Leaf Reminds thee of thy Mother's grief." was published as a standalone poem by Blake (note the slight change in syntax - 'repeats to thee' becomes 'reminds thee of'; I prefer the latter version myself), and has been the subject of endless critical analysis (ranging from scriptural to Freudian to deconstructionist). "Some are Born to sweet Delight, Some are born to Endless Night." features in a 'End of the Night', a brilliantly hallucinatory song by the Doors, on their eponymous first album. "The Bat that flits at close of Eve Has left the Brain that won't believe." gave rise to "The Bat that Blocks at Close of Play Stays on to Score another Day.' which brilliant parody is (I think) due to Wendy Cope (though I could be wrong). "The Harlot's cry from Street to Street Shall weave Old England's winding Sheet." has resonances with "But most, through midnight streets, I hear How the youthful harlot's curse Blasts the newborn infants tear, And blights with plagues the marriage hearse." from another famous Blake poem, 'London'. [Minstrels Links] There's a biography and critical assessment accompanying 'Jerusalem', at poem #26 One poem that _everybody_ knows is 'The Tyger', at poem #66 Another much-anthologized Blake is 'The Fly', at poem #26