20 January 2011

Blake and Love

I was quite unwell for a day or two and missed out on the chance to travel for work. The accompanying sequence of events was quite bizarre, so my trip was not meant to be. Afeared I was that I was sick of poetry, but, well, it has been such a faithful companion to date that we are going to stick together.

Some William Blake from his Songs of Experience.


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

Calling the lapsed Soul,
And weeping in the evening dew;
That might controll
The starry pole,
And fallen, fallen light renew!

"O Earth, O Earth, return!
"Arise from out the dewy grass;
"Night is worn,
"And the morn
"Rises from the slumberous mass.

"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."

Listening to Bach's Six Suites for Cello. It really has to be done from start to finish. I am waiting for Pierre Fournier's rendition of same that I ordered. The appreciation of classical music demands finding the right performance it is becoming evident, so it will be interesting to hear a new take on this work as I have been listening to Casals for maybe eight years or more. I also ordered Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Opp. 109, 110 & 111 played by Mitsuko Uchida, because the cover is really funky.

EARTH'S Answer

Earth rais'd up her head
From the darkness dread & drear.
Her light fled,
Stony dread!
And her locks cover'd with grey despair.

"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.

"Selfish father of men!
"Cruel, jealous, selfish fear!
"Can delight,
"Chain'd in night,
"The virgins of youth and morning bear?

"Does spring hide its joy
"When buds and blossoms grow?
"Does the sower
"Sow by night,
"Or the ploughman in darkness plow?

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

I do wonder what this reply is about precisely as Earth seems to be accusing me, i.e. humanity, of being responsible for its bondage. The one serious piece of analysis I could find online more or less agrees with this idea, but it is quite difficult to follow; being a compendium of over a dozen analyses, with frequent reference to the repetition of imagery throughout the entire body of Blake's work, contextualised against the mores of the poet's epoch. See, even that sentence is too long to understand! (Amusingly, there was elsewhere a brief critique stating that the poem is encouraging fathers to let their daughters sleep around more. That pearl of wisdom undoubtedly came from a high-school student!)

In the end, I read it as a cry for humanity to perfect its own behaviour or refine its way of loving. Blake himself did not include the following poem in the final manuscript of Songs of Experience, but he may have written it at the same time. Anyhow, here is how he describes love:

Love to faults is always blind,
Always is to joy inclin'd,
Lawless, wing'd and unconfin'd,
And breaks all chains from every mind.

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