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Poem of the day

 
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
William Blake (1757–1827).  The Poetical Works.  1908.

The Pickering MS.
William Bond

I WONDER whether the girls are mad,
And I wonder whether they mean to kill,
And I wonder if William Bond will die,
For assuredly he is very ill.

He went to church in a May morning,        5
Attended by Fairies, one, two, and three;
But the Angels of Providence drove them away,
And he return’d home in misery.

He went not out to the field nor fold,
He went not out to the village nor town,        10
But he came home in a black, black cloud,
And took to his bed, and there lay down.

And an Angel of Providence at his feet,
And an Angel of Providence at his head,
And in the midst a black, black cloud,        15
And in the midst the sick man on his bed.

And on his right hand was Mary Green,
And on his left hand was his sister Jane,
And their tears fell thro’ the black, black cloud
To drive away the sick man’s pain.        20

‘O William, if thou dost another love,
Dost another love better than poor Mary,
Go and take that other to be thy wife,
And Mary Green shall her servant be.’

‘Yes, Mary, I do another love,        25
Another I love far better than thee,
And another I will have for my wife;
Then what have I to do with thee?

‘For thou art melancholy pale,
And on thy head is the cold moon’s shine,        30
But she is ruddy and bright as day,
And the sunbeams dazzle from her eyne.’

Mary trembled and Mary chill’d,
And Mary fell down on the right-hand floor,
That William Bond and his sister Jane        35
Scarce could recover Mary more.

When Mary woke and found her laid
On the right hand of her William dear,
On the right hand of his loved bed,
And saw her William Bond so near,        40

The Fairies that fled from William Bond
Dancèd around her shining head;
They dancèd over the pillow white,
And the Angels of Providence left the bed.

I thought 1 Love lived in the hot sunshine,        45
But O, he lives in the moony light!
I thought to find Love in the heat of day,
But sweet Love is the comforter of night.

Seek Love in the pity of others’ woe,
In the gentle relief of another’s care,        50
In the darkness of night and the winter’s snow,
In the naked and outcast, seek Love there!
 
Jordan Holland
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I Asked a Thief

I asked a thief to steal me a peach,
He turned up his eyes;
I ask'd a lithe lady to lie her down,
Holy & meek she cries.

As soon as I went
An angel came.
He wink'd at the thief
And smild at the dame--

And without one word said
Had a peach from the tree
And still as a maid
Enjoy'd the lady.

                    William Blake
 
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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.
Why?
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
avenidas y flores

flores
flores y mujeres

avenidas
avenidas y mujeres

avenidas y flores y mujeres y
un admirador

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!
 
Jordan Holland
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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.
 
Anita Martin
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Thanks Jordan, I enjoyed reading your post.

Yes, poetry is a way to get us out of our comfort zone. We will get too unflexible and old if we do not challenge ourselves with new views, this is a journey that should never end.

And also very true that a poem can only try to convey emotions but it can only come close and the perception is very individual.

Will check out the Blake poem you mentioned!
 
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Friends long since last seen
Traveling far serving kin
Happy to see kith
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