Blake seeks to provide the Golden String which can lead us through the labyrinth of our experience or his own poetry.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


During William Blake's sojourn in Felpham under the patronage of William Hayley he undertook illustrating a series of Hayley's ballads on 'anecdotes relating to animals.' Hayley intended that one ballad be issued each month with three illustrations from Blake, for a total of fifteen ballads. Hayley wished the series to be 'considered as vehicles contrived to exhibit the diversified talents of my Friend for original design, and delicate engraving.' The project was terminated after Blake returned to London. The bookseller involved in the distribution considered it a money losing project and advised it be discontinued. Included among the published Numbers are:  The Elephant, The Eagle, The Lion, and The Dog.

Designs to a Series of Ballads Written by William Hayley
"Adam and the Animals"

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Blake's engraving is mentioned by Hayley in a letter of 16th May 1802: -"He (Blake) is at the moment by my side, representing on copper an Adam of his own, surrounded by animals, - frontispiece to the projected ballads."

Information about this project is from:
The Engravings of William Blake by Archibald G. B. Russell, Published 1912.

Legend on the page:
" Their strength, or speed, or vigilance, were giv'n
In aid of our defects. In some are found
Such teachable and apprehensive parts, 
Match'd with th'expertness of the brutes in theirs
Are oft times vanquished and thrown far behind."

Cowper's "Task," Book VI.

Publish'd June 1 1802, by W. Blake, Felpham

Look for mentions of these and other animals in Blake's poetry.
Songs of Innocence, (E 15)
Little Girl
Sweet and small,
Cock does crow
So do you.
Merry voice
Infant noise
Merrily Merrily to welcome in the Year"

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 9,(E 37)
"When thou seest an Eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius. lift up thy head!" 

Jerusalem, Plate 98, (E 258)
"...And I heard Jehovah speak 
Terrific from his Holy Place & saw the Words of the Mutual Covenant Divine
On Chariots of gold & jewels with Living Creatures starry & flaming
With every Colour, Lion, Tyger, Horse, Elephant, Eagle Dove, Fly, Worm,
And the all wondrous Serpent clothed in gems & rich array Humanize
In the Forgiveness of Sins according to the Covenant of Jehovah."

Four Zoas, Page 128, (E 398) 
"So spoke the Sinless Soul & laid her head on the downy fleece 
Of a curld Ram who stretchd himself in sleep beside his mistress
And soft sleep fell upon her eyelids in the silent noon of day"

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 565)
"The Horse never Envies the Peacock nor the Sheep the Goat
but they Envy a Rival in Life & Existence whose ways & means
exceed their own let him be of what Class of Animals he will a
Dog will envy a Cat who is pamperd at the expense of his comfort"

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