Wednesday, August 25, 2010


One of Blake's very early poems which appeared in Poetical Sketches, soars to the height of affirmation and plunges to the depths of depression. Although this is one of the group of poems which were actually published in conventional book form by some of Blake's friends in his youth, Blake was not pleased enough with them to want them circulated. The value to us in reading them, is in noticing the intimations of the themes and symbolism which he would develop with greater depth and complexity in his later work. Contemplation also can be enjoyed for its imagery which is reminiscent of other romantics. The poem ends abruptly as if the author had not reached a point in his life where he could find any reconciliation between the joys and sorrows of life.

Poetical Sketches, (E 442)

"Who is this, that with unerring step dares tempt the wilds, where
only Nature's foot hath trod? 'Tis Contemplation, daughter of the
grey Morning! Majestical she steppeth, and with her pure quill on
every flower writeth Wisdom's name. Now lowly bending, whispers
in mine ear, "O man, how great, how little thou! O man, slave of
each moment, lord of eternity! seest thou where Mirth sits on the
painted cheek? doth it not seem ashamed of such a place, and grow
immoderate to brave it out? O what an humble garb true joy puts
on! Those who want Happiness must stoop to find it; it is a
flower that grows in every vale. Vain foolish man, that roams on
lofty rocks! where, 'cause his garments are swoln with wind, he
fancies he is grown into a giant! Lo then, Humility, take it, and
wear it in thine heart; lord of thyself, thou then art lord of
all. Clamour brawls along the streets, and destruction hovers in
the city's smoak; but on these plains, and in these silent woods,
true joys descend: here build thy nest; here fix thy staff;
delights blossom around; numberless beauties blow; the green
grass springs in joy, and the nimble air kisses the leaves; the
brook stretches its arms along the velvet meadow, its silver
inhabitants sport and play; the youthful sun joys like a hunter
rouzed to the chace: he rushes up the sky, and lays hold on the
immortal coursers of day; the sky glitters with the jingling
trappings! Like a triumph, season follows season, while the airy
music fills the world with joyful sounds." I answered, "Heavenly
goddess! I am wrapped in mortality, my flesh is a prison, my
bones the bars of death, Misery builds over our cottage roofs,
and Discontent runs like a brook. Even in childhood, Sorrow
slept with me in my cradle; he followed me up and down in the
house when I grew up; he was my school-fellow: thus he was in my
steps and in my play, till he became to me as my brother. I
walked through dreary places with him, and in church-yards; and I
oft found myself sitting by Sorrow on a tomb-stone!"

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