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

Poems from Letters

[To Thomas Butts]: With Happiness stretch’d across the hills

WITH Happiness stretch’d across the hills

In a cloud that dewy sweetness distils;

With a blue sky spread over with wings,

And a mild sun that mounts and sings;

With trees and fields full of fairy elves,

And little devils who fight for themselves—

Rememb’ring the verses that Hayley sung

When my heart knock’d against the root of my tongue—

With angels planted in hawthorn bowers,

And God Himself in the passing hours;

With silver angels across my way,

And golden demons that none can stay;

With my father hovering upon the wind,

And my brother Robert just behind,

And my brother John, the evil one,

In a black cloud making his moan,—

Tho’ dead, they appear upon my path,

Notwithstanding my terrible wrath;

They beg, they entreat, they drop their tears,

Fill’d full of hopes, fill’d full of fears—

With a thousand angels upon the wind,

Pouring disconsolate from behind

To drive them off, and before my way

A frowning thistle implores my stay.

What to others a trifle appears

Fills me full of smiles or tears;

For double the vision my eyes do see,

And a double vision is always with me.

With my inward eye, ’tis an Old Man grey,

With my outward, a Thistle across my way.

‘If thou goest back.’ the Thistle said,

‘Thou art to endless woe betray’d;

For here does Theotormon lour,

And here is Enitharmon’s bower;

And Los the Terrible thus hath sworn,

Because thou backward dost return,

Poverty, envy, old age, and fear,

Shall bring thy wife upon a bier;

And Butts shall give what Fuseli gave,

A dark black rock and a gloomy cave.’

I struck the Thistle with my foot,

And broke him up from his delving root.

‘Must the duties of life each other cross?

Must every joy be dung and dross?

Must my dear Butts feel cold neglect

Because I give Hayley his due respect?

Must Flaxman look upon me as wild,

And all my friends be with doubts beguil’d?

Must my wife live in my sister’s bane,

Or my sister survive on my love’s pain?

The curses of Los, the terrible Shade,

And his dismal terrors make me afraid.’

So I spoke, and struck in my wrath

The Old Man weltering upon my path.

Then Los appear’d in all his power:

In the sun he appear’d, descending before

My face in fierce flames; in my double sight

’Twas outward a sun, inward Los in his might.

‘My hands are labour’d day and night,

And ease comes never in my sight.

My wife has no indulgence given

Except what comes to her from Heaven.

We eat little, we drink less,

This Earth breeds not our happiness.

Another sun feeds our life’s streams,

We are not warmèd with thy beams;

Thou measurest not the time to me,

Nor yet the space that I do see;

My mind is not with thy light array’d,

Thy terrors shall not make me afraid.’

When I had my defiance given,

The sun stood trembling in heaven;

The moon, that glow’d remote below,

Became leprous and white as snow;

And every soul of men on the earth

Felt affliction, and sorrow, and sickness, and dearth.

Los flam’d in my path, and the sun was hot

With the bows of my mind and the arrows of thought.

My bowstring fierce with ardour breathes;

My arrows glow in their golden sheaves;

My brothers and father march before;

The heavens drop with human gore.

Now I a fourfold vision see,

And a fourfold vision is given to me;

’Tis fourfold in my supreme delight,

And threefold in soft Beulah’s night,

And twofold always.—May God us keep

From single vision, and Newton’s sleep!