Verse > William Blake > Poetical Works
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William Blake (1757–1827).  The Poetical Works.  1908.
 
Verses from ‘The Gates of Paradise’
The Keys of the Gates
 
  
The Keys 1

THE CATERPILLAR on the leaf
  Reminds thee of thy Mother’s grief.
 

1.
  
of the Gates

My Eternal Man set in repose,
  The Female from his darkness rose;
  And she found me beneath a Tree,        5
  Mandrake, and in her Veil hid me.
  Serpent Reasonings us entice
  Of good and evil, virtue and vice,
2.  Doubt self-jealous, Watery folly;
3.  Struggling thro’ Earth’s melancholy;        10
4.  Naked in Air, in shame and fear;
5.  Blind in Fire, with shield and spear;
  Two-horn’d Reasoning, cloven fiction,
  In doubt, which is self-contradiction,
  A dark Hermaphrodite we stood—        15
  Rational truth, root of evil and good.
  Round me flew the Flaming Sword;
  Round her snowy Whirlwinds roar’d,
  Freezing her Veil, the Mundane Shell.
6.  I rent the Veil where the Dead dwell:        20
  When weary Man enters his Cave,
  He meets his Saviour in the grave.
  Some find a Female Garment there,
  And some a Male, woven with care;
  Lest the Sexual Garments sweet        25
  Should grow a devouring Winding-sheet.
7.  One dies! Alas! the Living and Dead!
  One is slain! and One is fled!
8.  In Vain-glory hatcht and nurst,
  By double Spectres, self-accurst.        30
  My Son! my Son! thou treatest me
  But as I have instructed thee.
9.  On the shadows of the Moon,
  Climbing thro’ Night’s highest noon;
10.  In Time’s Ocean falling, drown’d;        35
11.  In Agèd Ignorance profound,
  Holy and cold, I clipp’d the wings
  Of all sublunary things,
12.  And in depths of my dungeons
  Closed the Father and the Sons.        40
13.  But when once I did descry
  The Immortal Man that cannot die,
14.  Thro’ evening shades I haste away
  To close the labours of my day.
15.  The Door of Death I open found,        45
  And the Worm weaving in the ground:
16.  Thou’rt my Mother, from the womb;
  Wife, Sister, Daughter, to the tomb;
  Weaving to dreams the Sexual strife,
  And weeping over the Web of Life.        50
 
Note 1. Frontispiece. A caterpillar on an oak leaf. On a second leaf a human chrysalis like a babe in swaddling clothes. Legend: What is Man? with the lines:
The sun’s light, when he unfolds it,
Depends on the organ that beholds it.
  1. A woman under a weeping willow, holding a babe in her left arm, pulls a mandrake out of the ground by its hair. Legend: I found him beneath a tree.
  2. An old man, resting his hands on his knees, sits upon a rock beneath a leafless tree in a deluge of rain. The encroaching flood rises to his feet. Legend: Water, with the line: Thou waterest him with tears.
  3. Crouching figure of a man emerging from a crevice in a rock. Legend: Earth, with the line: He struggles into life.
  4. A man, nude, seated upon a white cloud, clasps his forehead with both hands and gazes steadfastly before him. Behind him the sky studded with stars. Legend: Air, with the line: On cloudy doubts and reasoning cares.
  5. A fiend, blind, standing in flames, armed with spear and shield. Legend: Fire, with the line: That end in endless strife—this and the three preceding lines forming a quatrain.
  5. In l. 4 ‘we’ is a revised rdg. of ‘I’ in the earlier issue.
  6. A cherub issuing from an egg. Legend: At length for hatching ripe he breaks the shell.
  7. A boy in garden, hat in hand, chases flying fairy. A second fairy lies crushed at his feet. Legend: Alas! [the original inscription written in centre of page with the addition of the words on either side and below] What are these? … the Female Martyr! Is she also the Divine Image?
  8. An old man, seated, with a sword in right hand, leans sorrowfully on his elbow, averting his head from the figure of a joyfully departing youth, who threatens him with a dart. Legend: My son! my son!
  9. A man standing on edge of world prepares to mount a ladder reared against the crescent moon. Two lovers watch him. Legend: I want! I want!
  10. A man drowning in sea, with one arm upthrust, and head just disappearing beneath the waves. Legend: Help! Help!
  11. An old man wearing spectacles, seated under a tree, clips the wings of a boy who struggles to escape. Before him the setting sun. Legend: Aged Ignorance, with the line: Perceptive Organs closed, their Objects close.
  12. An old man (Count Ugolino) with his two sons and two grandsons in dungeon cell. Legend: Does thy God, O Priest, take such vengeance as this?
  13. A husband, wife, and two children, beside a bed on which lies a corpse, watch the ascending spirit of an old man who points upward. Legend: Fear and Hope are—Vision.
  14. A man with a staff in his hand strides along a country lane. Legend: The traveller hasteth in the evening.
  15. An old man, leaning on a crutch, passes through the gateway of a tomb. Legend: Death’s door.
  16. A woman in white cerements, seated on the ground in a burial crypt. A huge worm crawls around her feet. Legend: I have said to the worm: Thou art my mother and my sister. [back]
 
 
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