I love William Blake. Well, not love as in… you know what I mean, he’s one of my favorite poets (I don’t kiss his picture late at night, or anything). He’s wonderful example to any pompous, cocky, over-verbose writer that less is more. A whole story can be told in three lines and just with well chosen words.
He evokes big ideas (Tiger, Tiger, burning bright) with small poems (O rose thou art sick). He plumbs the depths and skims over the many phases of man (innocence and experience). He does it with meter and rhyming which most think of today as unsophisticated. Not so.
Here, the textbook presented Blake’s poem as an example of rhymes that do not surprise (see yesterday’s post about the definition of rhyme). The words can be predicted before the reader gets to them, but the context of the line is so unique that it doesn’t matter; the impact it has on the reader’s mental senses and his emotion are so big that those words only contribute instead detract. He uses the overused rhyme words “birth”, “earth” and “mirth”, but in such a way that makes the reader think different thoughts, feel something new, feel something big.
This is a carpe diem poem about who he was, about what it means to be alive. The earth for all its dirt and toil and hardship has a lot of wonder, beauty and excitement to present and that we should look upon it, as much as we can, with the eyes of a child to see it.
The Angel That Presided O’er My Birth
by William Blake
The Angel that presided o’er my birth
Said, “Little creature, formed of Joy and Mirth,
Go love without the help of any thing on earth.”