William Blake was trained as an engraver and most of his poems were self published (with text and illustrations engraved by him on the same plate). A the age of ten, Blake had his first mystical experience, thereafter he was committed to a vision of life in which energy and imagination waged war against the oppressive forces of rationalism and materialism. A social, political and religious libertarian, Blake was tried for sedition and acquitted. His prophetic zeal led him to construct vast and obscure mythological systems and his work (even his short piercing lyrics) was largely ignored during his lifetime. Most of his contemporaries diagnosed him as insane. He is now thought of as the first Romantic.
The Human Abstract
By William Blake
Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody Poor:
And Mercy no more could be,
If all were as happy as we;
And mutual fear brings peace;
Till the selfish loves increase.
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.
He sits down with holy fears,
And waters the ground with tears:
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.
Soon spreads the dismal shade
Of Mystery over his head;
And the Caterpillar and Fly,
Feed on the Mystery.
And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
Ruddy and sweet to eat;
And the Raven his nest has made
In its thicket shade.
The Gods of the earth and sea,
Sought thro’ Nature to find this Tree
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human Brain
The Voices of the Ancient Bard
By William Blake
Youth of delight come hither:
And see the opening morn,
Image of truth new born
Doubt is fled & clouds of reason
Dark disputes & artful teasing
Folly is an endless maze,
Tangled roots perplex her ways,
How many have fallen there!
They stumble all night lover bones of the dead;
And feel they know not what but care;
And wish to lead others when they should be led.