August 27, 2021

From Gerald R. Lucas

Blake Earths Answer.jpg
Earth’s Answer[1]
By: William Blake (1794)

Earth raised up her head
From the darkness dread & drear.
Her light fled:
Stony, dread!
And her locks covered with grey despair. 5

Prison’d on watery shore
Starry jealousy does keep my den,
Cold and hoar;
Weeping o’er,
I hear the father of the ancient men.[2] 10

Selfish father of men,
Cruel, jealous, selfish fear!
Can delight
Chained in night[3]
The virgins of youth and morning bear?[4] 15

Does spring hide its joy
When buds and blossoms grow?
Does the sower
Sow by night,
Or the plowman in darkness plow?[5] 20

Break this heavy chain
That does freeze my bones around;
Selfish! vain!
Eternal bane!
That free love with bondage bound. 25

Notes & Comentary

  1. From the Songs of Experience, 1794, which, along with “Introduction,” defines the “emotional conditions” of the poems in this book (Tomlinson 1987, p. 27). Here, the earth decries unnatural restrictions placed on the act of love by the “Selfish father of men,” and class on him to “Break this heavy chain” of moral bondage that perverts the natural world. The Earth further answers the call in “Introduction” for "the lapsèd soul” to turn back to God is also unjust.
  2. A reference to the God of the Old Testament, whom Blake considered tyrannical and jealous, always attempting to intimidate and control humanity. In Blake’s mythology, this god is named Urizen, characterized by reason and the imposer of moral bondage (see Tomlinson 1987, pp. 28, 47 and Greenblatt 2018, p. 55).
  3. See the last stanza of “Introduction.”
  4. Restrictions on love that morality imposes can corrupt that love, making it shameful (Tomlinson 1987, p. 28).
  5. I.e., all of life’s joys are perverted by unnatural restrictions placed on them.

Bibliography

  • Ackroyd, Peter (1995). Blake: A Biography. New York: Ballantine Books.
  • Battenhouse, Henry M. (1958). English Romantic Writers. New York: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.
  • Bloom, Harold (2003). William Blake. Bloom’s Major Poets. New York: Chelsea House.
  • Frye, Northrup (1947). Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Gardner, Stanley (1969). Blake. Literary Critiques. New York: Arco.
  • Greenblatt, Stephen, ed. (2018). The Norton Anthology of English Literature. The Major Authors. 2 (Tenth ed.). New York: W. W. Norton.
  • Makdisi, Saree (2003). "The Political Aesthetic of Blake's Images". In Eaves, Morris. The Cambridge Companion to William Blake. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP. pp. 110–132.
  • — (2015). Reading William Blake. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Paulin, Tom (March 3, 2007). "The Invisible Worm". Guardian. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  • Thompson, E. P. (1993). Witness Against the Beast. New York: The New Press.
  • Tomlinson, Alan (1987). Song of Innocence and of Experience by William Blake. MacMillan Master Guides. London: MacMillan Education.
  • Wolfson, Susan J. (2003). "Blake's Language in Poetic Form". In Eaves, Morris. The Cambridge Companion to William Blake. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP. pp. 63–83.

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