Tuesday, February 05, 2013


In 1965 Benjamin Britten composed a song cycle titled Songs and Proverbs of William Blake based entirely on Blake's poetry. The composition includes lines from Songs of Innocence & Experience, Marriage of Heaven & Hell and Auguries of Innocence. This performance by Benjamin Luxton, baritone, is available on youtube in two parts. The second half begins at Tyger.
Follow Blake's poetry printed below as you listen to the music.

1.Proverb I: The pride of the peacock
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 8, (E 36)
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.  

Songs of Innocence & Experience, Song 46, (E 26) 
I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow.  
And mark in every face I meet 
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man, 
In every Infants cry of fear, 
In every voice: in every ban, 
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear 
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse
3.Proverb II: Prisons are built 
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 8, (E 36)
Prisons are built with stones of Law, 
Brothels with bricks of Religion.
4.The Chimney-Sweeper
Songs of Experience, Song 37, (E 22) 
THE CHIMNEY SWEEPER                                    
A little black thing among the snow:
Crying weep, weep, in notes of woe!                    
Where are thy father & mother? say?
They are both gone up to the church to pray.

Because I was happy upon the heath, 
And smil'd among the winter's snow: 
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

And because I am happy, & dance & sing,
They think they have done me no injury:
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King
Who make up a heaven of our misery.            

5.Proverb III: The bird a nest 

Marriage of Heaven & Hell
, Plate 8, (E 36)

The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship. 

6.A Poison Tree
Songs of Innocence & Experience, Song 49, (E 28) 
A POISON TREE.                              
I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretchd beneath the tree.
7.Proverb IV: Think in the morning  
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 9, (E 37) 
Think in the morning, Act in the noon, Eat in the evening, Sleep in the night. 
British Museum
Small Book of Designs
From Marriage of Heaven & Hell
Plate 14

8.The Tyger  
Songs of Innocence & Experience, Song 42, (E 24) 
THE TYGER.                                                  
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,                                     
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?                              

In what distant deeps or skies.                                
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?                                  
On what wings dare he aspire?                        
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?               
What the hammer? what the chain, 
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,                     
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!                       

When the stars threw down their spears               
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?                        
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?                  

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:                         
What immortal hand or eye,        
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? 

9.Proverb V: The tygers of wrath 
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 9, (E 37)
The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction
Plate 7, (E 35)
If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
Plate 9 , (E 37)
If others had not been foolish, we should be so.                        
10.The Fly  
Songs of Innocence & Experience, Song 40, (E 23) 
THE FLY.                                    
Little Fly
Thy summers play,                           
My thoughtless hand                          
Has brush'd away.                           
Am not I 
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink & sing: 
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life                                
And strength & breath:
And the want                                       
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die. 
11.Proverb VI: The hours of folly  

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 7, (E 36)
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.             
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
The hours of folly are measur'd by the clock, but of wisdom: no clock can measure.
12.Ah! Sun-flower!
Songs of Innocence & Experience, Song 43, (E 25)
Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done.

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.
13.Proverb VII: To see a World 
Songs and Ballads, (E 490)
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
14.Every Night and Every Morn

Songs and Ballads, (E 492)
Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born 
Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
We are led to Believe a Lie 
When we see not Thro the Eye   
Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night 
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day

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