OK, of course I have heard about William Blake before but I was not really familiar with him.
So I read the Wikipedia article about him when this poem came up in the new posts.
Because the poems makes me uncomfortable. Of course I know that everything has to be seen in context.
So I was a bit relieved to read that Mr. Blake was considered quite modern for his time, open-minded and almost a feminist.
You might be astonished to hear which poem raised a heated debate (and had to be deleted ultimately from a public building) in Germany about two years ago.
It is called Avenidas by the Swiss poet Eugen Gomringer:
avenidas y flores
flores y mujeres
avenidas y mujeres
avenidas y flores y mujeres y
The reasoning behind is that the poem objectifies women (male gaze, stalking) and is therefore sexist.
Well, compared to Mr. Blake the male "author" here is rather shy and chaste, there is no rapist-fantasy however close you look.
I am a feminist, but sometimes I do not agree with the claim that every written or said word (or book or movie) has to agree 100% with our own perception and ideas.
This is just what crossed my mind when reading the poem.
A poem can (should?) induce thoughts, discussions, so keep them coming!
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do. (E.E.Hale)
Anita, he is one of my favorites, though pretty dark. He was a product of his times, I guess. Perhaps that darkness is why I like him, and especially why I have revisited him lately. But there is often a ray of hope in his writings shining through the darkness. He was indeed quite a progressive radical of his times. He was actually part of a free-love movement if I remember correctly! He lived in a dark time in London, and I would encourage people to try to put his works in context, especially his detestation of religion. His experiences were with a corrupt, iron-fisted version, and he rebeled against the corruption, not the true religion itself. I've never seen "The Thief" as being sexist, but that's interesting. There was a lot of sexism back then. Women basically had two choices: marriage or prostitution (this is part of what makes Mary's words in "William Bond" so powerful). I note that in "The Thief" there are two dupes: one a woman and one a man, thus keeping it an equal representation of humanity as a whole. I believe it is a statement against society. The narrator is straightforward and honest in what he wants. The [fallen or false] angel is the attractive, charismatic, "cool" person. The honest person is ridiculed, while the attractive person is handed everything on a silver platter.
You make a good point about the banned poem. I think it is commonly true about most banned writings. How many people read the poem about stalking and decided it would be cool to be a stalker? How many read it and were warned that there are people like that out there, and lived safer as a result? I think this the downfall of banning things that are unpleasant. I think that the most unpleasant writings are the ones most likely to teach us, because they get us out of our comfort zone and make us not only feel, but also think--often from a new perspective. This is how we grow. Speaking of unpleasant poems, Blake's "I Saw a Chapel all of Gold" is possibly the most unpleasant one I know. The first time I read it, it made me feel like vomiting. No poem had ever done that before. I believe the purpose of poetry is to put emotion into words. I believe it is ultimately impossible to do; it is rather an endeavor of seeing how close we can get.
And he said, "I want to live as an honest man, to get all I deserve, and to give all I can, and to love a young woman whom I don't understand. Your Highness, your ways are very strange."