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William Blake (1757–1827). The Poetical Works. 1908.

On Friends and Foes

And his legs carried it like a long fork

—AND his legs carried it like a long fork,

Reached all the way from Chichester to York,

From York all across Scotland to the sea;

This was a man of men, as seems to me.

Not only in his mouth his own soul lay,

But my soul also would he bear away.

Like as a pedlar bears his weary pack,

He would bear my soul buckled to his back.

But once, alas! committing a mistake,

He bore the wretched soul of William Blake

That he might turn it into eggs of gold;

But neither back nor mouth those eggs could hold.

His under jaw dropp’d as those eggs he laid,

And all my eggs are addled and decay’d.

The Examiner, whose very name is Hunt,

Call’d Death a madman, trembling for the affront

Like trembling hare sits on his weakly paper

On which he used to dance and sport and caper.

Yorkshire Jack Hemp and Quibble, blushing daw,

Clapp’d Death into the corner of their jaw,

And Felpham Billy rode out every morn,

Horseback with Death, over the fields of corn;

Who with iron hand cuff’d, in the afternoon,

The ears of Billy’s Lawyer and Dragoon.

And Cur my lawyer, and Daddy, Jack Hemp’s parson,

Both went to law with Death to keep our ears on.

For how to starve Death we had laid a plot

Against his price—but Death was in the pot.

He made them pay his price, alackaday!

He knew both Law and Gospel better than they.

O that I ne’er had seen that William Blake,

Or could from Death Assassinette wake!

We thought—Alas, that such a thought could be!—

That Blake would etch for him and draw for me.

For ’twas a kind of bargain Screwmuch made

That Blake’s designs should be by us display’d,

Because he makes designs so very cheap.

Then Screwmuch at Blake’s soul took a long leap.

’Twas not a mouse. ’Twas Death in a disguise.

And I, alas! live to weep out my eyes.

And Death sits laughing on their monuments

On which he ’s written ‘Receivèd the contents.’

But I have writ—so sorrowful my thought is—

His epitaph; for my tears are aquafortis.

‘Come, Artists, knock your head against this stone,

For sorrow that our friend Bob Screwmuch ’s gone.’

And now the Muses upon me smile and laugh

I’ll also write my own dear epitaph,

And I’ll be buried near a dyke

That my friends may weep as much as they like:

‘Here lies Stewhard the Friend of all [mankind;

He has not left one enemy behind.]’