Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Poetry Corner: William Blake

Caution: Gut-wrenching irony ahead

It’s been a while since I’ve had a Poetry Corner, so I decided it’s about time. This time around, we’ll look at William Blake, and we’ll get two poems for the price of one.

Blake was a religious mystic, and he was also highly critical of the social injustices of his day. While many people, especially cat lovers, are familiar with such poems as “The Tyger,” Blake wrote many poems that involved social ills. Here, we see two poems, both with the same title, and both with the same subject: children from the workhouse attending religious services on Holy Thursday.

Holy Thursday
from Songs of Innocence

'Twas on a holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean,
The children walking two and two, in red, and blue, and green:
Grey-headed beadles walked before, with wands as white as snow,
Till into the high dome of Paul's they like Thames waters flow.

O what a multitude they seemed, these flowers of London town!
Seated in companies they sit, with radiance all their own.
The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
Thousands of little boys and girls raising their innocent hands.

Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among:
Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor.
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.

Holy Thursday
from Songs of Experience

Is this a holy thing to see
In a rich and fruitful land, -
Babes reduced to misery,
Fed with cold and usurous hand?

Is that trembling cry a song?
Can it be a song of joy?
And so many children poor?
It is a land of poverty!

And their sun does never shine,
And their fields are bleak and bare,
And their ways are filled with thorns,
It is eternal winter there.

For where'er the sun does shine,
And where'er the rain does fall,
Babe can never hunger there,
Nor poverty the mind appal.


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