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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Matthew 26
[26] And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
[27] And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
[28] For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
[29] But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
[30] And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
[31] Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.

Acts 2
[1] And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
[2] And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
[3] And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them

British Museum
Songs of Innocence & of Experience
Plate 20
Copy A
Songs of Innocence & of Experience, Song 19, (E 13) 
Twas on a Holy Thursday their innocent faces clean 
The children walking two & two in red & blue & green 
Grey headed beadles walkd before with wands as white as snow 
Till into the high dome of Pauls they like Thames waters flow 

O what a multitude they seemd these flowers of London town 
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own 
The hum of multitudes was there but multitudes of lambs 
Thousands of little boys & girls raising their innocent hands 

Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song 
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among 
Beneath them sit the aged men wise guardians of the poor 
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door"

There is historical precedent for the event marked in Blake's Holy Thursday poems. The charity school children were annually paraded to St. Paul's Cathedral to commemorate their gratitude to their benefactors. The event however did not take place on Holy Thursday. Blake choose the title to associate the poems with Jesus' last supper with his disciples when he invited them to partake of his body and blood. The quote from Matthew mentions the scattering of the sheep and Blake writes of 'multitudes of lambs Thousands of little boys & girls raising their innocent hands'. The mighty wind recalls the day of Pentecost.

Blake presents the charity school children as they appear in the sight of God. It is they who sit at the Lord's table and upon them appear the cloven tongues of fire. The public and their benefactors may see them as needy or troubled but vision transforms them into angels.

British Museum
Songs of Innocence & of Experience
Plate 49
Copy A
Songs of Innocence & of Experience, Song 33, (E 19) 
Is this a holy thing to see, 
In a rich and fruitful land, 
Babes reduced to misery, 
Fed with cold and usurous hand? 

Is that trembling cry a song? 
Can it be a song of joy? 
And so many children poor? 
It is a land of poverty! 

And their sun does never shine. 
And their fields are bleak & bare. 
And their ways are fill'd with thorns. 
It is eternal winter there.

For where-e'er the sun does shine, 
And where-e'er the rain does fall: 
Babe can never hunger there, 
Nor poverty the mind appall."

Opinions differed on the charity schools. Some saw that the children of the poor were taught to read the Bible and indoctrinated in moral virtue. Some saw that they were clothed and housed and fed through the generosity of the religious community. Others saw that the children were ill fed, poorly clothed and suffered brutal treatment.

Blake saw that the innocent children observed singing and marching in their colorful uniforms in our first poem were not as joyful as they may first appear. The wealthy society into which they were born was for them a land of poverty in which they experienced eternal winter. It was a society in which consciousness of the light of God's mercy and the waters of his love did not reach into every mind and heart. But Blake saw that change was possible; that the lessons of experienced could be learned. The sun can shine, the rain can fall: destroying every vestige of hunger and poverty. 
Milton, Plate 11 [12], (E 105)
"And therefore the Class of Satan shall be calld the Elect, & those
Of Rintrah. the Reprobate, & those of Palamabron the Redeem'd
For he is redeem'd from Satans Law, the wrath falling on Rintrah,"

Milton, Plate 25 [27], (E 122)  
"The Elect is one Class: You
Shall bind them separate: they cannot Believe in Eternal Life
Except by Miracle & a New Birth. The other two Classes;
The Reprobate who never cease to Believe, and the Redeemd,       
Who live in doubts & fears perpetually tormented by the Elect"

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