The Books of My Numberless Dreams

William Blake, William Blake

Posted on: March 4, 2007

Tom Paulin wrote on William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience in a Rereading column for The Guardian. It is the 250th anniversary of William Blake’s birth and the BBC Radio 3 is doing all sorts of wonderful things to commemorate the occasion.

The Guardian article starts off with a little of this, a little of that and then swerves into some close reading of a few of Blakes poetry from Songs of Experience. It’s not as elegantly put together as Byatt’s article on Willa Cather, for example, but it’s a decent introduction. I suspect better things will be offered at BBC Radio 3, March 5 -8 at 6:00 PM ET where he gives further discussion on the books.

Earlier today Radio 3 aired a dramatisation of a period in Blake’s life when he was charged with sedition. During his trials you will hear many of Blake’s religious philosophies espoused, acted by Robert Glenister. I quite enjoyed it. The program will be available for 7 days so catch it while you still can here. (Real Player required.)

By the time I’ve posted this Words & Music will have started. Tonight Imogen Stubbs and Bill Patterson will be reading poetry and prose centred around the themes explored in Blake’s Innocence and Experience, include his own selection along with writings by others such as Neruda, Plath, Emily Dickinson and Thomas Mann; and music by Vaughn Williams, Schumann and Bernstein among others. This will be available for 7 days as well so there is ample time to partake.

Pardon the edit but I got a bit too excited and forgot to include a Blake poem. As I listened to dramatisation and heard Blake opine on education I thought of his The Schoolboy.

I love to rise in a summer morn,
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the skylark sings with me:
O what sweet company!

But to go to school in a summer morn, –
O it drives all joy away!
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.

Ah then at times I drooping sit,
And spend many an anxious hour;
Nor in my book can I take delight,
Nor sit in learning’s bower,
Worn through with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?
How can a child, when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing,
And forget his youthful spring!

O father and mother if buds are nipped,
And blossoms blown away;
And if the tender plants are stripped
Of their joy in the springing day,
By sorrow and care’s dismay, –

How shall the summer arise in joy,
Or the summer fruits appear?
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,
Or bless the mellowing year,
When the blasts of winter appear?

3 Responses to "William Blake, William Blake"

Hi! I found your blog through The Blog Jar, and I love it!

Cheers to all the Blakeish goings-on. I fell in love with Songs of Innocence and Experience in my undergraduate British survey course and have never fallen out. I fell in love with his artwork before that, actually. Such a talent.

Sylvia, indeed!

Andi thank you for the nice compliment. I agree that his artwork is just as powerful as his poetry. I can’t read one without viewing the other.

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