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

The Pickering MS.


SWEET MARY, the first time she ever was there,

Came into the ball-room among the fair;

The young men and maidens around her throng,

And these are the words upon every tongue:

‘An Angel is here from the heavenly climes,

Or again does return the golden times;

Her eyes outshine every brilliant ray,

She opens her lips—’tis the Month of May.’

Mary moves in soft beauty and conscious delight,

To augment with sweet smiles all the joys of the night,

Nor once blushes to own to the rest of the fair

That sweet Love and Beauty are worthy our care.

In the morning the villagers rose with delight,

And repeated with pleasure the joys of the night,

And Mary arose among friends to be free,

But no friend from henceforward thou, Mary, shalt see.

Some said she was proud, some call’d her a whore,

And some, when she passèd by, shut to the door;

A damp cold came o’er her, her blushes all fled;

Her lilies and roses are blighted and shed.

‘O, why was I born with a different face?

Why was I not born like this envious race?

Why did Heaven adorn me with bountiful hand,

And then set me down in an envious land?

‘To be weak as a lamb and smooth as a dove,

And not to raise envy, is call’d Christian love;

But if you raise envy your merit’s to blame

For planting such spite in the weak and the tame.

‘I will humble my beauty, I will not dress fine,

I will keep from the ball, and my eyes shall not shine;

And if any girl’s lover forsakes her for me

I’ll refuse him my hand, and from envy be free.’

She went out in morning attir’d plain and neat;

‘Proud Mary’s gone mad,’ said the child in the street;

She went out in morning in plain neat attire,

And came home in evening bespatter’d with mire.

She trembled and wept, sitting on the bedside,

She forgot it was night, and she trembled and cried;

She forgot it was night, she forgot it was morn,

Her soft memory imprinted with faces of scorn;

With faces of scorn and with eyes of disdain,

Like foul fiends inhabiting Mary’s mild brain;

She remembers no face like the Human Divine;

All faces have envy, sweet Mary, but thine;

And thine is a face of sweet love in despair,

And thine is a face of mild sorrow and care,

And thine is a face of wild terror and fear

That shall never be quiet till laid on its bier.