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

Songs from ‘An Island in The Moon’

III. When Old Corruption first begun

WHEN Old Corruption first begun,

Adorn’d in yellow vest,

He committed on Flesh a whoredom—

O, what a wicked beast!

From then a callow babe did spring,

And Old Corruption smil’d

To think his race should never end,

For now he had a child.

He call’d him Surgery and fed

The babe with his own milk;

For Flesh and he could ne’er agree:

She would not let him suck.

And this he always kept in mind;

And form’d a crooked knife,

And ran about with bloody hands

To seek his mother’s life.

And as he ran to seek his mother

He met with a dead woman.

He fell in love and married her—

A deed which is not common!

She soon grew pregnant, and brought forth

Scurvy and Spotted Fever,

The father grinn’d and skipt about,

And said ‘I’m made for ever!

‘For now I have procur’d these imps

I’ll try experiments.’

With that he tied poor Scurvy down,

And stopt up all its vents.

And when the child began to swell

He shouted out aloud—

‘I’ve found the dropsy out, and soon

Shall do the world more good.’

He took up Fever by the neck,

And cut out all its spots;

And, thro’ the holes which he had made,

He first discover’d guts.