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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

William Blake's Auguries of Innocence

I bet that not a lot of Malaysian can say that they had ever been enamoured of historical poetry. Nowdays, words that rhyme are either from a primary school class learning nursery English or something out of the music billboard charts. Then again, in retrospect, lax in the rules of rhyming is forgivable in the former and yet doesn’t necessary apply to the latter.

Screw me, at times my English is too good, me thinks.

I often surf to other blogs - and I sincerely won’t name them - and at times felt a bit smirky or mixed emotions at the state of the written English amongst Malaysian bloggers. Words like mixed Manglish-ness and the -larr at end quote.

That’s not enough, at times bloggers even colourize their words with fancy italics, bold font and multi-rainbow text in sections to the over-pimped extend that brings attention to the subject matter, but sort of flops in the overall concept of being an intelligible and professional entry.

Blame it on the SMS generation, were we all speak in so many abbreviations *sigh*.

I’m no English genius. Hell, I don’t want to lecturer English (of course, I confess I sometimes intentionally slip into street language myself; sorrie-lee...). But it’s kind of getting hard, to find a nice, interestingly written piece that’s isn’t wordy-pimped, graphic-overused and is not some online thesis instructional guide.

Blog entries and the language used for blogging, I think, should be more like Wikipedia entries. Clear-cut, precise, understandable to read and with relevant content.

Granted, not a lot of us got A1 in their SPM scores and consistent A+ grades in their university English papers (being a female Malay, I’ve been bullied of being a cheater amongst the rich Chinese girls at Puberty Institution, aka Secondary School), but when it comes to having an international target in mind, maybe it helps with a little grammar discretion.

Bah, I don’t know how you put up this far. I’ve intended to post one of my favourite historical poems (yes, I love old-fashioned Romantic-era poetry. That’s not odd, is it?) and here I’ve strayed to lack of high-quality local English blogs (though, they do pay some damn good attention when they open emotionally-charged discussions).

This poem is the very first long poem I had found myself being drawn into without some sort of educational requirement. In simple terms, I didn’t find it because I had to write a report of something poetry.

Maybe it’s because I was 13 when I read it for the first time. Suddenly I realized, I shouldn’t have been so quick to wish wanting to quickly grow up and face adult life. To me, William Blake had reminded us not to take the importance of having a childhood phase for granted. Who he wrote Auguries of Innocence was as if through the dreams of a child...

William Blake - Auguries of Innocence

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.

A dove-house fill'd with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro' all its regions.
A dog starv'd at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.

A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.

A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipt and arm'd for fight
Does the rising sun affright.

Every wolf's and lion's howl
Raises from hell a human soul.

The wild deer, wand'ring here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misus'd breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher's knife.

The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won't believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever's fright.

He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be belov'd by men.
He who the ox to wrath has mov'd
Shall never be by woman lov'd.

The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider's enmity.
He who torments the chafer's sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.

The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother's grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the last judgement draweth nigh.

He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar's dog and widow's cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.

The gnat that sings his summer's song
Poison gets from slander's tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of envy's foot.

The poison of the honey bee
Is the artist's jealousy.

The prince's robes and beggar's rags
Are toadstools on the miser's bags.
A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

The babe is more than swaddling bands;
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;

This is caught by females bright,
And return'd to its own delight.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,
Are waves that beat on heaven's shore.

The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes revenge in realms of death.
The beggar's rags, fluttering in air,
Does to rags the heavens tear.

The soldier, arm'd with sword and gun,
Palsied strikes the summer's sun.
The poor man's farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric's shore.

One mite wrung from the lab'rer's hands
Shall buy and sell the miser's lands;
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.

He who mocks the infant's faith
Shall be mock'd in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne'er get out.

He who respects the infant's faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child's toys and the old man's reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.

The questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.

The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar's laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour's iron brace.

When gold and gems adorn the plow,
To peaceful arts shall envy bow.
A riddle, or the cricket's cry,
Is to doubt a fit reply.

The emmet's inch and eagle's mile
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne'er believe, do what you please.

If the sun and moon should doubt,
They'd immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.

The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation's fate.
The harlot's cry from street to street
Shall weave old England's winding-sheet.

The winner's shout, the loser's curse,
Dance before dead England's hearse.

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro' the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.

God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.

3 Minds bloomed here too...:

KaV said...

though i am not much of a fan of poetry, this piece is actually quite good. Nope... It's better than "quite good".

somehow, i can't escape the feeling that this poetry is a sugar-coated, euphemistic reflection of our nation's current socio-political state....

Quickening said...

@kav: Innocence is virtue. Ignorance is bliss. To pretend innocence to hide ignorance is just another day in politics. Heh.

Blake is very light hearted, but at the moment, I'm trying to be immersed in Paradise Lost. For a city girl, I'm a sad, sad, saaaaaaaad sucker to fall for poetry... :P (figured out how I fell in, dunno how to get out).

kyels said...

Poems; I love 'em. And I love this piece from William Blake too.


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