Image of poem
British Museum Miniature 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 WILLIAM BLAKE" 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.