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

Selections from ‘The Four Zoas’

[The Wail of Enion]

(Four Zoas, Night II, ll. 595–626.)

I AM made to sow the thistle for wheat, the nettle for a nourishing dainty:

I have planted a false oath in the earth; it has brought forth a Poison Tree:

I have chosen the serpent for a counsellor, and the dog

For a schoolmaster to my children:

I have blotted out from light and living the dove and nightingale,

And I have causèd the earthworm to beg from door to door:

I have taught the thief a secret path into the house of the just:

I have taught pale Artifice to spread his nets upon the morning.

My heavens are brass, my earth is iron, my moon a clod of clay,

My sun a pestilence burning at noon, and a vapour of death in night.

What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song,

Or Wisdom for a dance in the street? No! it is bought with the price

Of all that a man hath—his house, his wife, his children.

Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,

And in the wither’d field where the farmer ploughs for bread in vain.

It is an easy thing to triumph in the summer’s sun,

And in the vintage, and to sing on the waggon loaded with corn:

It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted,

To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer,

To listen to the hungry raven’s cry in wintry season,

When the red blood is fill’d with wine and with the marrow of lambs:

It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements;

To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughterhouse moan;

To see a God on every wind and a blessing on every blast;

To hear sounds of Love in the thunderstorm that destroys our enemy’s house;

To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, and the sickness that cuts off his children,

While our olive and vine sing and laugh round our door, and our children bring fruits and flowers.

Then the groan and the dolour are quite forgotten, and the slave grinding at the mill,

And the captive in chains, and the poor in the prison, and the soldier in the field

When the shatter’d bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead:

It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity—

Thus would I sing and thus rejoice; but it is not so with me.