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

Selections from ‘Jerusalem’

[The Lament of Albion]

(Jerusalem, f. 24, ll. 12–35.)

O WHAT is Life and what is Man? O what is Death? Wherefore

Are you, my Children, natives in the Grave to where I go?

Or are you born to feed the hungry ravenings of Destruction,

To be the sport of Accident. to waste in Wrath and Love a weary

Life, in brooding cares and anxious labours, that prove but chaff?

O Jerusalem! Jerusalem! I have forsaken thy courts,

Thy pillars of ivory and gold, thy curtains of silk and fine

Linen, thy pavements of precious stones, thy walls of pearl

And gold, thy gates of Thanksgiving, thy windows of Praise,

Thy clouds of Blessing, thy Cherubims of Tender Mercy,

Stretching their Wings sublime over the Little Ones of Albion.

O Human Imagination! O Divine Body, I have crucifièd!

I have turnèd my back upon thee into the Wastes of Moral Law:

There Babylon is builded in the Waste, founded in Human desolation.

O Babylon! thy Watchman stands over thee in the night;

Thy severe Judge all the day long proves thee, O Babylon,

With provings of Destruction, with giving thee thy heart’s desire.

But Albion is cast forth to the Potter, his Children to the Builders

To build Babylon, because they have forsaken Jerusalem.

The walls of Babylon are Souls of Men; her gates the Groans

Of Nations; her towers are the Miseries of once happy Families;

Her streets are pavèd with Destruction; her houses built with Death;

Her Palaces with Hell and the Grave; her Synagogues with Torments

Of ever-hardening Despair, squar’d and polish’d with cruel skill.