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Friday, 28 November 2008

Birthday!

Amongst others, it's William Blake's 251st birthday today. Happy birthday, Will!

From what little I know about him, his unconventional views and unique voice led to him being regarded as either madman or mystic. That alone makes him interesting but, beyond that, I've always admired the edge to his poetry -- the dark shadow lurking -- as well as what he added to the art of the period. To celebrate this day, here's not only a smattering of his words (something other than Tyger, Tyger and Jerusalem) and an image, but also a birthday song from The Beatles.


I Asked A Thief

I asked a thief to steal me a peach:
He turned up his eyes.
I ask'd a lithe lady to lie her down:
Holy & 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.
(1796)

The Human Abstract

Pity would be no more
If we did not make somebody Poor;
And Mercy no more could be
If all were as happy as we.

And mutual fear brings peace
Till the selfish loves increase:
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.

He sits down with holy fears,
And waters the ground with tears;
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.

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

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

The 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.

9 comments:

gary davison said...

Canny poems, completely wasted on me as you'd expect!

Paul said...

Ready to challenge convention, was Blake. As I say, I like his dark side.

Phil said...

Happy birthday Paul

Paul said...

Cheers, bro. Hope you enjoyed the film. Pretty whacky!

gary davison said...

Many happy returns Mr Burman, you kept that one close to your chest. All the best.

Jane Turley said...

Hmm... I did wonder if that was a subtle way of saying it was your B-day! Belated Birthday greetings PB!


Ps; What's it like to be 94?

Paul said...

Cheers, Gary and Jane. I've got into the habit of celebrating Blake's birthday because he's got a couple of hundred years on me and thereby makes me feel young... even at 94. It's his birthday that always appears on our calendar at home. By using Blake as my proxy, particularly on those big "0" birthdays, it's a bit like keeping my birthday cake and eating it at the same time. Thanks to my (much older) brother for blowing my not-so-subtle ruse.

Madison Richards said...

251 years old! Wow. That's quite a feat! We should all be so lucky - or not?

Many happy returns...

Madison

Paul said...

Cheers, Madison. Maybe it's time to start using Merlin as my birthday alter-ego and then at least I'd have an excuse for getting younger.