Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer poets: William Blake

William Blake (1757-1927) was a self-taught poet and artist, a revolutionary, visionary and eccentric whose work was largely ignored in his own day.

Like the man, Blake’s religion could be fairly strange, too. He was viciously critical of the corruptions of major institutions of his time including the Church, the State, marriage, slavery and urban capitalism. He also evolved his own (not always orthodox) view of Christianity.

Here in two short poems, Blake reflects on losing faith and finding it again. In the first poem a child loses sight of a ‘Father’ figure who turns out to be non-existent anyway (‘vapour’). In the second, the child is found again by a renewed sense of a God who is instead ‘ever nigh’.

In these little poems Blake speaks to us about how we grow as people of faith. Often we find we have to move on (by choice, or forced by circumstances) to leave the earlier forms of our faith behind, and to discover God afresh. Blake assures us that though we may leave ‘God’ behind (and feel lost), God is in fact really present and in a new and more intimate way.

The Little Boy lost

Father, father, where are you going
O do not walk so fast.
Speak father, speak to your little boy
Or else I shall be lost,

The night was dark no father was there
The child was wet with dew.
The mire was deep, & the child did weep
And away the vapour flew.


The Little Boy found

The little boy lost in the lonely fen,
Led by the wand’ring light,
Began to cry, but God ever nigh,
Appeared like his father in white.

He kissed the child & by the hand led
And to his mother brought,
Who in sorrow pale, thro’ the lonely dale
Her little boy weeping sought.


(This post is part of a series or weekly thoughts over the Summer)

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