Wednesday, February 17, 2010

LOSS of LIBERTY

This is one of the Blake's early poems. It was published in the conventional way in 1783 through the the patronage of a friend. As it turned out Poetical Sketches was Blake's only printed volume, all others he engraved himself.

Poetical Sketches (E 411) SONG

"How sweet I roam'd from field to field,
And tasted all the summer's pride,
'Till I the prince of love beheld,
Who in the sunny beams did glide!

He shew'd me lilies for my hair,
And blushing roses for my brow;
He led me through his gardens far,
Where all his golden pleasures grow,

With sweet May dews my wings were wet,
And Phoebus fir'd my vocal rage;
He caught me in his silken net,
And shut me in his golden cage.

He loves to sit and hear me sing,
Then, laughing, sports and plays with me;
Then stretches out my golden wing,
And mocks my loss of liberty."

This poem is said to have been written before Blake was 14 years old. So it may be seen as a coming-of-age poem. It contains metaphors Blake will depend on throughout his career: 'prince of love', 'lilies,' 'roses,' 'brow,' 'gardens,' 'golden,' 'fire,' 'net,' 'wing' and 'liberty.' Some see the poem as referring to the restricting nature of sexual entanglements. It can be seen also as describing the experience of a young person being on the cusp between childhood and adolescence.

Even for as precocious a child as Blake, there would be a transition point where the boy recognizes his own abilities and possibilities. He realizes that he can be (and will be) more that he was (or could be) as a child. He begins to see more and experience more. His emotional nature is aroused and his voice is unleashed.

But a dilemma arises. There are forces that restrict the full expression of his gifts. He feels he is being limited and restrained. What expression is allowed to him, may be a source of amusement to those who are unable to appreciate his unconventional abilities. The liberty which the young person thought he had found is soon circumscribed in the same old ways or in new ways entirely.

Often in his writing Blake returns to this topic of the youthful impetus for freedom, self-expression and change being met with the forces of tribalism, conservatism and the mores of convention. You may have noticed that we have touched on it in several other posts. But if you follow the thread of this youthful, energetic character as it is developed, and evolves throughout Blake's work, I think you will find his name is Los.

Youthful Impetus for Freedom

If you click on the label Future age, you will find other posts where Blake treats the way things have been, and the way things may be.

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