Poetry

The Blossom * William Blake Poem

220px-blake_the_blossomMerry, merry sparrow!
Under leaves so green
A happy blossom
Sees you, swift as arrow,
Seek your cradle narrow,
Near my bosom.

Pretty, pretty robin!
Under leaves so green
A happy blossom
Hears you sobbing, sobbing,
Pretty, pretty robin,
Near my bosom.

About the poem

Sparrows are traditionally associated with carefree survival, robins with warmth and compassion. Blake assumes his readers know this, even though the poem’s speaker does not.

It seems as though the innocent voice of the poem rejoices in the external appearance of the birds – ‘merry sparrow!’, ‘pretty robin!’ – without distinguishing between them. The carefree sparrow and the compassionate robin, despite its sobbing, have the same welcome.

Blake thus portrays innocence as ignorant: it exists in a world that includes reasons for sobbing and for compassion of which it is unaware.

About the author

“William Blake was born in London on November 28, 1757 [d. 1827], to James, a hosier, and Catherine Blake. Two of his six siblings died in infancy. From early childhood, Blake spoke of having visions—at four he saw God “put his head to the window”; around age nine, while walking through the countryside, he saw a tree filled with angels.

Although his parents tried to discourage him from “lying”, they did observe that he was different from his peers and did not force him to attend conventional school. He learned to read and write at home. At age ten, Blake expressed a wish to become a painter, so his parents sent him to drawing school. Two years later, Blake began writing poetry. When he turned fourteen, he apprenticed with an engraver because art school proved too costly. One of Blake’s assignments as apprentice was to sketch the tombs at Westminster Abbey, exposing him to a variety of Gothic styles from which he would draw inspiration throughout his career. After his seven-year term ended, he studied briefly at the Royal Academy.

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