Wednesday, March 16, 2011


_____________________________________Gates of Paradise, Plate 6

The subject of this poem from Blake's early book Poetical Sketches superficially is a love affair which ended in disappointment and depression. It is also possible to understand the poem as a statement of the young man's dawning awareness of the illusions encountered in the mental world we construct. We come to expect that when Blake uses a word, it is a metaphor for an underlying concept. A poem about losing one's true love from Blake is more likely to be about 'cracking the cosmic egg' which has imprisoned one in unawareness. It is probably about a death that leads to a rebirth.

Poetical Sketches, (E 416)


"My silks and fine array,
My smiles and languish'd air,
By love are driv'n away;
And mournful lean Despair
Brings me yew to deck my grave:
Such end true lovers have.

The artificiality of innocence is forced away by experience. Simple pleasures are replaced by the sorrows of experience.

"His face is fair as heav'n,
When springing buds unfold;
O why to him wast giv'n,
Whose heart is wintry cold?
His breast is love's all worship'd tomb,
Where all love's pilgrims come,"

Loveliness and simplicity are appearances; within is the difficult effort of finding truth through dealing with contraries.

'Bring me an axe and spade,
Bring me a winding sheet;
When I my grave have made,
Let winds and tempests beat:
Then down I'll lie, as cold as clay.
True love doth pass away!"

When one dies to the outward and enters the inward, one gives up expectations of affirmation and appreciation and success.


Susan J. said...

that "crack in the cosmic egg" title / metaphor sure has come in handy over the years, hasn't it? I use it a lot, myself... :-)

Susan J. said...

along with the corresponding Leonard Cohen line:

"there is a crack, a crack, in everything. that's how the light gets in."

ellie said...

Thanks for the Leonard Cohen connection.

There are cracks that can't be covered over, or sealed up. Eventually there will be slippage of the plates or the hot molten lava will find its way to the surface. Its better to let the new being emerge instead of confining him in his egg.