Tuesday, July 02, 2013


Thomas Butts was more than a collector of Blake's works; he was a family friend and a spiritual friend. Blake taught painting and engraving to Butts' son who was also named Thomas. It is thought that Blake made a design of hares which Mrs Butts executed as needlework. In a letter of 1800 Blake addressed a poem to Mrs Butts. A second poem addressed to her was located in the 20th century among papers belonging to one of her descendents.

British Library Online
Image of poem
British Museum
Elizabeth Butts 1809

Letters,  (E 714)
"Felpham Octr 2d 1800
We have had but little time for viewing the Country but what
we have seen is Most Beautiful & the People are Genuine Saxons
handsomer than the people [ar] about London.  Mrs Butts

     Wife of the Friend of those I most revere.
     Recieve this tribute from a Harp sincere
     Go on in Virtuous Seed sowing on Mold
     Of Human Vegetation & Behold
     Your Harvest Springing to Eternal life
     Parent of Youthful Minds & happy Wife
                                     W B--
I am for Ever Yours

Satiric Verses and Epigrams, (E 517)
  "The Phoenix to Mrs Butts
I saw a Bird rise from the East
As a Bird rises from its Nest
With sweetest Songs I ever heard
It sang I am Mrs Butts's Bird
And then I saw a Fairy gay                  
That with this beauteous Bird would play
From a golden cloud she came
She calld the sweet Bird by its name
She call'd it Phoenix! Heavens Dove!
She call'd it all the names of Love              
But the Bird flew fast away
Where little Children sport & play
And they strok'd it with their hands
All their cooe's it understands
The Fairy to my bosom flew                   
Weeping tears of morning dew
I said: Thou foolish whimpring thing
Is not that thy Fairy Ring
Where those Children sport & play
In Fairy fancies light & gay                  
Seem a Child & be a Child
And the Phoenix is beguild
But if thou seem'st a  Fairy thing
Then it flies on glancing Wing
                      WILLIAM BLAKE"

In Blake's poem for Mrs Butts we see a contrast between the Bird and the Fairy. Blake considers the Fairy to be an elemental spirit, the particular one associated with Urizen whose 'golden cloud' Blake mentions. Gnomes, Genii, and Nymphs are associated with the other three Zoas. Although the four are spirits they are not of the eternal world but part of nature or the vegetated world.

The Bird like the angel is a symbol of a messenger from heaven and so partakes of the eternal dimension. The Bird is called away from the Fairy to join in the play of children. If the Fairy could enter the innocent world of the child, she could join the bird/angel. If the fairy cannot 'Seem a Child & be a Child' the bird as a representative of Eternity withdraws from the natural world to its home in heaven.

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