Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Georgian Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Georgian Verse.  1909.
 
Auguries of Innocence
By William Blake (1757–1827)
 
TO 1 see a world in a grain of sand,
  And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
  And eternity in an hour.
 
A robin redbreast in a cage        5
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house fill’d with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro’ all its regions.
A dog starv’d at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.        10
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing,        15
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipt and arm’d for fight
Does the rising sun affright.
Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raises from hell a human soul.        20
The wild deer, wand’ring here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misus’d breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher’s knife.
The bat that flits at close of eve        25
Has left the brain that won’t believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever’s fright.
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be belov’d by men.        30
He who the ox to wrath has mov’d
Shall never be by woman lov’d.
The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider’s enmity.
He who torments the chafer’s sprite        35
Weaves a bower in endless night.
The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother’s grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the last judgment draweth nigh.        40
He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar’s dog and widow’s cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.
The gnat that sings his summer’s song        45
Poison gets from slander’s tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of envy’s foot.
The poison of the honey bee
Is the artist’s jealousy.        50
The prince’s robes and beggar’s rags
Are toadstools on the miser’s bags.
A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so;        55
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.        60
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
The babe is more than swaddling bands;
Throughout all these human lands
Tools were made, and born were hands,        65
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;
This is caught by females bright,
And return’d to its own delight.        70
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,
Are waves that beat on heaven’s shore.
The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes revenge in realms of death.
The beggar’s rags, fluttering in air,        75
Does to rags the heavens tear.
The soldier, arm’d with sword and gun,
Palsied strikes the summer’s sun.
The poor man’s farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric’s shore.        80
One mite wrung from the lab’rer’s hands
Shall buy and sell the miser’s lands;
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.
He who mocks the infant’s faith        85
Shall be mock’d in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne’er get out.
He who respects the infant’s faith
Triumphs over hell and death.        90
The child’s toys and the old man’s reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.
The questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt        95
Doth put the light of knowledge out.
The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar’s laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour’s iron brace.        100
When gold and gems adorn the plow
To peaceful arts shall envy bow.
A riddle, or the cricket’s cry,
Is to doubt a fit reply.
The emmet’s inch and eagle’s mile        105
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne’er believe, do what you please.
If the sun and moon should doubt
They’d immediately go out.        110
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.
The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation’s fate.
The harlot’s cry from street to street        115
Shall weave old England’s winding-sheet.
The winner’s shout, the loser’s curse,
Dance before dead England’s hearse.
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,        120
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie        125
When we see not thro’ the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;        130
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.
 
Note 1. The text of Blake’s poems here followed is that of the Clarendon Press Edition, 1905, edited by Mr. John Sampson. In his prefatory note to this poem the editor says: “It will be seen that the poem consists of an opening quatrain, followed by sixty-four couplets. Turning to the latter, it may be noticed in the first place that the couplets are almost always arranged together in pairs, as if forming quatrains with the rime-arrangement aabb or sometimes aaaa. The few exceptions to the rule have the appearance of being marginal interpolations. The first five stanzas (ll. 5–24) deal with cruelty or kindness to animals, its penalty or reward—a theme which may have been suggested to Blake’s mind while engraving the plates for Hayley’s Ballads. In the sixth stanza (ll. 25–28) Blake wanders off into a different aspect of animal life, obscene or noxious animals symbolizing human faults or vices. This theme is continued later in the couplets following l. 44. Stanzas 9, 10, and 11 (ll. 37–44 and 45–52) are continuations respectively of these two themes. The couplet which follows (ll. 53, 54)
  ‘A Truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent’—
is not very closely bound to the preceding lines. It has the appearance of being an afterthought, perhaps in the nature of a personal reflection on one of the chief modes by which ‘slander,’ ‘envy,’ and ‘jealousy’ work for evil. At l. 55 the return to the quatrain unit is clearly marked by the rime-arrangement of the next three stanzas, all, as in the last stanza of ‘The Grey Monk,’ having four identical rimes. Stanzas 13 and 14 (ll. 55–88 and 59–62) appear to have been mistakenly copied down in inverted order. This paragraph discusses a new topic, alternate pleasure and grief in human life, a theme entirely different from the darker one of predestined misery or delight (ll. 119–132)…. The subjects of the remaining stanzas are strongly reminiscent of those of the Songs of Experience, and often compress within the narrow limit of a couplet the strength and tenderness of some of the most familiar of the songs.” [back]
 
 
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