Monday, February 16, 2009

Blake's Take On It All

I love this poem and first encountered it when studying Yeats at Otago Uni. It's not by Yeats though, William Blake was the scribe. My lecturer, a tweedy man who concealed his whip-cracking sadism behind a gentle, learned Englishman's demeanor, described it as "a curious little poem". I have no idea if he actually knew what it was all about - sex, death and eternal cycles of life, I suppose.
Anyway, it's a tripper and it's great! Enjoy.

The Mental Traveller by William Blake

I traveld thro' a Land of Men

A Land of Men & Women too

And heard & saw such dreadful things

As cold Earth wanderers never knew

For there the Babe is born in joy

That was begotten in dire woe

Just as we Reap in joy the fruit

Which we in bitter tears did sow

And if the Babe is born a Boy

He's given to a Woman Old

Who nails him down upon a rock

Catches his Shrieks in Cups of gold

She binds iron thorns around his head

She pierces both his hands & feet

She cuts his heart out at his side

To make it feel both cold & heat

Her fingers number every Nerve

Just as a Miser counts his gold

She lives upon his shrieks & cries

And She grows young as he grows old

Till he becomes a bleeding youth

And she becomes a Virgin bright

Then he rends up his Manacles

And binds her down for his delight

He plants himself in all her Nerves

Just as a Husbandman his mould

And She becomes his dwelling place

And Garden fruitful Seventy fold

An aged Shadow soon he fades

Wandring round an Earthly Cot

Full filled all with gems & gold

Which he by industry had got

And these are the gems of the Human Soul

The rubies & pearls of a lovesick eye

The countless gold of the akeing heart

The martyrs groan & the lovers sigh

They are his meat they are his drink

He feeds the Beggar & the Poor

And the way faring Traveller

For ever open is his door

His grief is their eternal joy

They make the roofs & walls to ring

Till from the fire on the hearth

A little Female Babe does spring

And she is all of solid fire

And gems & gold that none his hand

Dares stretch to touch her Baby form

Or wrap her in his swaddling-band

But She comes to the Man she loves

If young or old or rich or poor

They soon drive out the aged Host

A Begger at anothers door

He wanders weeping far away

Untill some other take him in

Oft blind & age-bent sore distrest

Untill he can a Maiden win

And to Allay his freezing Age

The Poor Man takes her in his arms

The Cottage fades before his Sight

The Garden & its lovely Charms

The Guests are scatterd thro' the land

For the Eye altering alters all

The Senses roll themselves in fear

And the flat Earth becomes a Ball

The Stars Sun Moon all shrink away

A desart vast without a bound

And nothing left to eat or drink

And a dark desart all around

The honey of her Infant lips

The bread & wine of her sweet smile

The wild game of her roving Eye

Does him to Infancy beguile

For as he eats & drinks he grows

Younger & younger every day

And on the desart wild they both

Wander in terror & dismay

Like the wild Stag she flees away

Her fear plants many a thicket wild

While he pursues her night & day

By various arts of Love beguild

By various arts of Love & Hate

Till the wide desart planted oer

With Labyrinths of wayward Love

Where roams the Lion Wolf & Boar

Till he becomes a wayward Babe

And she a weeping Woman Old

Then many a Lover wanders here

The Sun & Stars are nearer rolld

The trees bring forth sweet Extacy

To all who in the desart roam

Till many a City there is Built

And many a pleasant Shepherds home

But when they find the frowning Babe

Terror strikes thro the region wide

They cry the Babe the Babe is Born

And flee away on Every side

For who dare touch the frowning form

His arm is witherd to its root

Lions Boars Wolves all howling flee

And every Tree does shed its fruit

And none can touch that frowning form

Except it be a Woman Old

She nails him down upon the Rock

And all is done as I have told


  1. Very obscure. Yes, sex and death and cycles maybe. He really was a visionary, would probably be diagnosed as a delusional schizophrenic these days. Though did I detect a specific symbolic message in there - how 'man' gets his life from 'woman' - or am I just being paranoid.

  2. My head hurts, i tried reading it, but it was tainted by formatting jargon.

    Can you read it to me please?


  3. You have to watch the tweedy ones. I had Elizabeth Jolly as a tutor once and what a black and gothic soul her absent minded grandmother exterior hid!

    the wheelchair guy has given a economical thankyou for the poem "merbicu"

  4. Merci Monseuer!
    That formatting jargon confused me, coz it doesn't show up on my computer but did the other day on another. Yes, Juice, one day I'll read it to you!
    Aren't you lucky C.Q! Have you read the new Biography of Elizabeth Jolly?