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

Poetical Sketches

Blind Man’s Buff

WHEN silver snow decks Susan’s clothes,

And jewel hangs at th’ shepherd’s nose,

The blushing bank is all my care,

With hearth so red, and walls so fair;

‘Heap the sea-coal, come, heap it higher,

The oaken log lay on the fire.’

The well-wash’d stools, a circling row,

With lad and lass, how fair the show!

The merry can of nut-brown ale,

The laughing jest, the love-sick tale,

Till, tir’d of chat, the game begins.

The lasses prick the lads with pins;

Roger from Dolly twitch’d the stool,

She, falling, kiss’d the ground, poor fool!

She blush’d so red, with side-long glance

At hob-nail Dick, who griev’d the chance.

But now for Blind man’s Buff they call;

Of each encumbrance clear the hall—

Jenny her silken ’kerchief folds,

And blear-eyed Will the black lot holds.

Now laughing stops, with ‘Silence! hush!’

And Peggy Pout gives Sam a push.

The Blind man’s arms, extended wide,

Sam slips between:—‘O woe betide

Thee, clumsy Will!’—but titt’ring Kate

Is penn’d up in the corner straight!

And now Will’s eyes beheld the play;

He thought his face was t’other way.

‘Now, Kitty, now! what chance hast thou,

Roger so near thee!—Trips, I vow!’

She catches him—then Roger ties

His own head up—but not his eyes;

For thro’ the slender cloth he sees,

And runs at Sam, who slips with ease

His clumsy hold; and, dodging round,

Sukey is tumbled on the ground!—

‘See what it is to play unfair!

Where cheating is, there’s mischief there.’

But Roger still pursues the chase,—

‘He sees! he sees!’ cries, softly, Grace;

‘O Roger, thou, unskill’d in art,

Must, surer bound, go thro’ thy part!

Now Kitty, pert, repeats the rimes,

And Roger turns him round three times,

Then pauses ere he starts—but Dick

Was mischief bent upon a trick;

Down on his hands and knees he lay

Directly in the Blind man’s way,

Then cries out ‘Hem!’ Hodge heard, and ran

With hood-wink’d chance—sure of his man;

But down he came.—Alas, how frail

Our best of hopes, how soon they fail!

With crimson drops he stains the ground;

Confusion startles all around.

Poor piteous Dick supports his head,

And fain would cure the hurt he made;

But Kitty hasted with a key,

And down his back they straight convey

The cold relief; the blood is stay’d,

And Hodge again holds up his head.

Such are the fortunes of the game,

And those who play should stop the same

By wholesome laws; such as all those

Who on the blinded man impose

Stand in his stead; as, long a-gone,

When men were first a nation grown,

Lawless they liv’d, till wantonness

And liberty began t’ increase,

And one man lay in another’s way;

Then laws were made to keep fair play.