Sunday, December 19, 2010

Joy and Woe

Here's one of the Master's little poems.

"Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine."
From Auguries of Innocence; read the whole thing.

How simple! how profound!

Look at the infant, coming out of the warm uterus (and being saddled with 'swaddling clothes').

With Songs of Innocence Blake offered this:

Infant Joy

"I have no name;
I am but two days old."
What shall I call thee?
"I happy am,
Joy is my name."
Sweet joy befall thee!
Pretty joy!
Sweet joy, but two days old.
Sweet Joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while;
Sweet joy befall thee!"

And countered it with Songs of Experience:

Infant Sorrow

In the old days the obstetrician used to give the unborn baby a spank:

No spank! no breath!

Thereafter joy and woe come in balance:

Everything is measured thusly: Baby is delighted! Baby is furious! You might say that's the story of our lives: we're satisfied-- or frustrated.

If we're fortunate and lucky, we may live with a fair measure of joy; but part of the time we're pretty sure to be in the furnace, drowning in the Sea of Time and Space.

Most of us know the daily grind: blue Monday, lovely Friday afternoon; some of my old friends spent the intervening time blotto (don't try it!)

For twenty years Blake struggled in the Sea, until the Felpham Moment when, like the Prodigal, "he came to himself".

So there it is: the Furnace and the Vision.

When that day comes; when you realize you must die, will it be like the sailor in Shakespeare's Tempest ("To prayers! to prayers! All's lost; all's lost") or like Blake, who wrote:

"When at last I did descry the Immortal Man who cannot die, through evening shades I haste away to close the labors of my Day" (from Gates of Paradise).

Heaven is the Return
From where we sprung.

No comments: