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William Blake (1757–1827).  The Poetical Works.  1908.
 
Poetical Sketches
Blind Man’s Buff
 
WHEN silver snow decks Susan’s clothes,
And jewel hangs at th’ shepherd’s nose, 1
The blushing bank is all my care,
With hearth so red, and walls so fair;
‘Heap the sea-coal, come, heap it higher,        5
The oaken log lay on the fire.’
The well-wash’d stools, a circling row,
With lad and lass, how fair the show!
The merry can of nut-brown ale,
The laughing jest, the love-sick tale,        10
Till, tir’d of chat, the game begins.
The lasses prick the lads with pins;
Roger from Dolly twitch’d the stool,
She, falling, kiss’d the ground, poor fool!
She blush’d so red, with side-long glance        15
At hob-nail Dick, who griev’d the chance.
But now for Blind man’s Buff they call;
Of each encumbrance clear the hall—
Jenny her silken ’kerchief folds,
And blear-eyed Will the black lot holds.        20
Now laughing stops, with ‘Silence! hush!’
And Peggy Pout gives Sam a push.
The Blind man’s arms, extended wide,
Sam slips between:—‘O woe betide
Thee, clumsy Will!’—but titt’ring Kate        25
Is penn’d up in the corner straight!
And now Will’s eyes beheld the play;
He thought his face was t’other way.
‘Now, Kitty, now! what chance hast thou,
Roger so near thee!—Trips, I vow!’        30
She catches him—then Roger ties
His own head up—but not his eyes;
For thro’ the slender cloth he sees,
And runs at Sam, who slips with ease
His clumsy hold; and, dodging round,        35
Sukey is tumbled on the ground!—
‘See what it is to play unfair!
Where cheating is, there’s mischief there.’
But Roger still pursues the chase,—
‘He sees! he sees!’ cries, softly, Grace;        40
‘O Roger, thou, unskill’d in art,
Must, surer bound, go thro’ thy part!
Now Kitty, pert, repeats the rimes,
And Roger turns him round three times,
Then pauses ere he starts—but Dick        45
Was mischief bent upon a trick;
Down on his hands and knees he lay
Directly in the Blind man’s way,
Then cries out ‘Hem!’ Hodge heard, and ran
With hood-wink’d chance—sure of his man;        50
But down he came.—Alas, how frail
Our best of hopes, how soon they fail!
With crimson drops he stains the ground;
Confusion startles all around.
Poor piteous Dick supports his head,        55
And fain would cure the hurt he made;
But Kitty hasted with a key,
And down his back they straight convey
The cold relief; the blood is stay’d,
And Hodge again holds up his head.        60
Such are the fortunes of the game,
And those who play should stop the same
By wholesome laws; such as all those
Who on the blinded man impose
Stand in his stead; as, long a-gone,        65
When men were first a nation grown,
Lawless they liv’d, till wantonness
And liberty began t’ increase,
And one man lay in another’s way;
Then laws were made to keep fair play.        70
 
Note 1. Blake repeats these lines in the ‘Song by an old Shepherd’, with change of ‘Susan’s’ to ‘Sylvia’s’, and ‘th’ shepherd’s’ (possibly a printer’s emendation) to ‘shepherd’s’. [back]
 
 
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