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

Friday, June 17, 2016


The relationship between William Blake and William Hayley was complex. Each was well intentioned and intelligent. Hayley was interested in promoting scholarship and in assisting artists who had a hard time getting along in the harsh world. Before Hayley befriended Blake he tried to assist the hymn writer Cowper by writing a biography of the poet. But the personalities of Blake and Hayley were not compatible; each held too firmly to his own convictions. Hayley wanted to help Blake to become more affluent; Blake wanted to pursue his spiritual interests above his material interests. 

Hayley, being well intentioned, devised a scheme of writing for Blake to illustrate some trivial poetry which he thought would have popular appeal. Blake would be the illustrator and would profit from the sale of the publication. Blake made 14 engraving for this project which was issued in 1802 as the first of a series of pamphlets. Before the work was complete Blake had left Felpham and returned to London. He and Hayley maintained a cordial relationship which can be followed in Blake's letters. Like most of Blake's projects, this one involved enormous effort on Blake's part, and very little income.
Hayley wrote: "There is hardly any kind of ingenious employment in which the mind requires more to be cheared and diverted, than the slow and sometimes very irksome progress of engraving; especially when the art is exercised by a person of varied talents; and of a creative imagination. To amuse the Artist in his patient labour," Hayley provided his poems. He felt it a "duty incumbent on me to use every liberal method, in my power, to obtain for his industrious ingenuity, the notice and favour of my countrymen." (The Engravings of William Blake, by Archibald G.B. Russell, Page 86)
Blake learned to separate his difficulties in enduring the world's slights and arrows, from the benefits of his Spiritual Victories. 

Letters, (E 766)
To Hayley, Sth Molton Street
December 11, 1805
Dear Sir
"You Dear Sir are one who has my Particular Gratitude. having 
conducted me thro Three that would have been the Darkest Years 
that ever Mortal Sufferd. which were renderd thro your means a 
Mild & Pleasant Slumber. I speak of Spiritual Things. Not of 
Natural. of Things known only to Myself & to Spirits Good & 
Evil. but Not Known to Men on Earth. It is the passage thro 
these Three Years that has brought me into my Present State. & I 
know that if I had not been with You I must have 
Perish'd--Those Dangers are now Passed & I can see them beneath 
my feet It will not be long before I shall be able to present the 
full history of my Spiritual Sufferings to the Dwellers upon 
Earth. & of the Spiritual Victories obtaind for me by my 
Friends--Excuse this Effusion of the Spirit from One who cares 
little for this World which passes away. whose Happiness is 
Secure in Jesus our Lord. & who looks for Suffering till the time 
of complete Deliverance."

British Museum
Illustrations to Hayley's Ballads
The Eagle
The savage bird the kid renounc'd,
But round the cottage oft
Rapid he wheel'd, and there he pounc'd,
And bore the babe aloft.
Lo! Donald flies.--She touches earth:
O form'd on earth to shine!
O mother of unrivall'd worth,
And sav'd by aid divine!

She lives unhurt--unhurt too lies
The baby in her clasp;
And her aerial tyrant dies
Just strangled in her grasp.

What triumph swelled in Donald's breast,
And o'er his features spread.
When he his living mother prest,
And held the Eagle dead!

Angels, who left your realms of bliss.
And on this parent smil'd,
Guard every mother brave as this,
In rescuing her child!"


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