William Blake

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A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

William Blake (November 28 1757August 12 1827) was an English poet, Christian mystic, painter, printmaker, and engraver.




If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
The archetype of the Creator is a familiar image in his work. Here, Blake depicts his demiurgic figure Urizen stooped in prayer, contemplating the world he has forged. The Song of Los is the third in a series of illuminated books painted by Blake and his wife, collectively known as the Continental Prophecies.
  • Reason, or the ratio of all we have already known, is not the same that it shall be when we know more.
    • There Is No Natural Religion (1788)
  • The true method of knowledge is experiment.
    • All Religions are One (1788)
  • There can be no Good Will. Will is always Evil; it is persecution to others or selfishness.
    • Annotations to Swedenborg (1788)
  • If a thing loves, it is infinite.
    • Annotations to Swedenborg (1788)
  • Does the Eagle know what is in the pit?
    Or wilt thou go ask the Mole?
    Can Wisdom be put in a silver rod?
    Or Love in a golden bowl?

Poetical Sketches (1783)

Blake's "Newton" is a demonstration of his opposition to the "single-vision" of scientific materialism: The great philosopher-scientist is isolated in the depths of the ocean, his eyes (only one of which is visible) fixed on the compasses with which he draws on a scroll. He seems almost at one with the rocks upon which he sits (1795).
  • How sweet I roamed from field to field,
    And tasted all the summer's pride,
    Till I the prince of love beheld,
    Who in the sunny beams did glide!
    • Song (How Sweet I Roamed), st. 1
  • He loves to sit and hear me sing,
    Then, laughing, sports and plays with me;
    Then stretches out my golden wing,
    And mocks my loss of liberty.
    • Song (How Sweet I Roamed), st. 4
  • My silks and fine array,
    My smiles and languished air,
    By love are driv'n away;
    And mournful lean Despair
    Brings me yew to deck my grave:
    Such end true lovers have.
    • Song (My Silks and Fine Arrays), st. 1
  • Like a fiend in a cloud,
    With howling woe,
    After night I do crowd,
    And with night will go;
    I turn my back to the east,
    From whence comforts have increased;
    For light doth seize my brain
    With frantic pain.
    • Mad Song, st. 3
  • How have you left the ancient love
    That bards of old enjoyed in you!
    The languid strings do scarcely move!
    The sound is forced, the notes are few!
    • To the Muses, st. 4

Annotations to Lavater (1788)

  • Damn sneerers!
  • True superstition is ignorant honesty & this is beloved of god and man.
  • Forgiveness of enemies can only come upon their repentance.
  • Active Evil is better than Passive Good.
  • They suppose that Woman's Love is Sin; in consequence all the Loves & Graces with them are Sin.

Songs of Innocence (1789–1790)

On a cloud I saw a child,
And he laughing said to me:
"Pipe a song about a Lamb."
So I piped with merry cheer…
  • Piping down the valleys wild,
    Piping songs of pleasant glee,
    On a cloud I saw a child,
    And he laughing said to me:
    "Pipe a song about a Lamb."
    So I piped with merry cheer;
    "Piper, pipe that song again."
    So I piped; he wept to hear.
    • Introduction, st. 1–2
  • And I made a rural pen,
    And I stained the water clear,
    And I wrote my happy songs
    Every child may joy to hear.
    • Introduction, st. 5
  • Sing louder around
    To the bells' cheerful sound,
    While our sports shall be seen
    On the ecchoing green.
    • The Ecchoing Green, st. 1
  • Little Lamb, who made thee?
    Dost thou know who made thee?
    Gave thee life and bid thee feed
    By the stream and o'er the mead;
    Gave thee clothing of delight,
    Softest clothing, woolly bright.
    • The Lamb, st. 1
  • My mother bore me in the southern wild,
    And I am black, but O! my soul is white;
    White as an angel is the English child,
    But I am black as if bereaved of light.
    • The Little Black Boy, st. 1
  • And we are put on earth a little space,
    That we may learn to bear the beams of love,
    And these black bodies and this sunburnt face
    Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.
    • The Little Black Boy, st. 4
  • I'll shade him from the heat till he can bear
    To lean in joy upon our Father's knee;
    And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,
    And be like him and he will then love me.
    • The Little Black Boy, st. 7
  • When my mother died I was very young,
    And my father sold me while yet my tongue
    Could scarcely cry 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!'weep!
    So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.
    • The Chimney Sweeper, st. 1
  • To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
    All pray in their distress;
    And to these virtues of delight
    Return their thankfulness.
    • The Divine Image, st. 1
  • For Mercy has a human heart,
    Pity, a human face,
    And Love, the human form divine,
    And Peace, the human dress.
    • The Divine Image, st. 3
  • The moon like a flower
    In heaven's high bower,
    With silent delight,
    Sits and smiles on the night.
    • Night, st. 1
  • And there the lion's ruddy eyes
    Shall flow with tears of gold,
    And pitying the tender cries,
    And walking round the fold,
    Saying: "Wrath by his meekness,
    And by his health, sickness,
    Is driven away
    From our immortal day."
    • Night, st. 5
  • "For washed in life's river,
    My bright mane forever
    Shall shine like the gold
    As Iguard o'er the fold."
    • Night, st. 6
  • When the voices of children are heard on the green
    And laughing is heard on the hill,
    My heart is at rest within my breast
    And everything else is still.
    • Nurse's Song, st. 1
  • Can I see another's woe,
    And not be in sorrow too?
    Can I see another's grief,
    And not seek for kind relief?
    • On Another's Sorrow, st. 1


  • Nothing can be more contemptible than to suppose Public RECORDS to be True.
    • Annotations to An Apology for the Bible by R. Watson (1798)
  • That the Jews assumed a right Exclusively to the benefits of God. will be a lasting witness against them. & the same will it be against Christians
    • Annotations to An Apology for the Bible by R. Watson (1798)
  • In my Brain are studies & Chambers fill'd with books & pictures of old, which I wrote & painted in ages of Eternity before my mortal life;
  • I am not ashamed, afraid, or averse to tell you what Ought to be Told: That I am under the direction of Messengers from Heaven, Daily & Nightly;

but the nature of such things is not, as some suppose, without trouble or care.

  • And now let me finish with assuring you that, Tho I have been very unhappy, I am so no longer. I am again. Emerged into the light of day; I still & shall to Eternity Embrace Christianity and Adore him who is the Express image of God; but I have travel'd thro' Perils & Darkness not unlike a Champion. I have Conquer'd, and shall still Go on Conquering. Nothing can withstand the fury of my Course among the Stars of God & in the Abysses of the Accuser. My Enthusiasm is still what it was, only Enlarged and conform'd.
  • I have labour'd hard indeed, & have been borne on angel's wings. Till we meet I beg of God our Saviour to be with you & me, & yours & mine. Pray give my & my wife's love to Mrs Butts & Family, & believe me to remain.
  • Degrade first the arts if you'd mankind degrade,
    Hire idiots to paint with cold light and hot shade.
    • Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds's Discourses, title page (c. 1798–1809)
  • To Generalize is to be an Idiot. To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit — General Knowledges are those Knowledges that Idiots possess.
    • Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds's Discourses, pp. xvii–xcviii (c. 1798–1809)
  • The Foundation of Empire is Art & Science Remove them or Degrade them & the Empire is No More — Empire follows Art & Not Vice Versa as Englishmen suppose.
    • Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds's Discourses
  • Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burden'd air;
    Hungry clouds swag on the deep.
    • The Argument
  • Without contraries there is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate are necessary to human existence.
    • The Argument
  • The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true poet and of the Devils' party without knowing it.
    • Note to The Voice of the Devil
  • Those who restrain desire do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place & governs the unwilling.
    • The Voice of the Devil
  • If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: infinite.
    • A Memorable Fancy
  • The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.
    • A Memorable Fancy
  • Opposition is true Friendship.
    • A Memorable Fancy
Proverbs of Hell
  • The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
    • Line 3
  • He who desires but acts not breeds pestilence.
    • Line 5
  • A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
    He whose face gives no light shall never become a star.
    • Lines 8–9
  • Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
    • Line 10
  • The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
    • Line 11
  • The hours of folly are measur'd by the clock, but of wisdom no clock can measure.
    • Line 12
  • All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap.
    • Line 13
  • No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.
    • Line 15
  • If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
    • Line 18
  • Prisons are built with stones of law; brothels with bricks of religion.
    • Line 21
  • The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
    The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
    The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
    The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
    • Line 22
  • The cistern contains: the fountain overflows.
    • Line 35
  • One thought fills immensity.
    • Line 36
  • Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.
    • Line 37
  • The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn of the crow.
    • Line 39
  • Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.
    • Line 41
  • The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.
    • Line 44
  • You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
    • Line 46
  • The weak in courage is strong in cunning.
    • Line 49
  • When thou seest an Eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius; lift up thy head!
    • Line 54
  • Exuberance is Beauty.
    • Line 64
  • Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius.
    • Line 66
  • Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believed.
    • Line 69
  • Enough! or too much.
    • Line 70
  • The ancient poets animated all objects with Gods or Geniuses, calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations, and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could perceive. And particularly they studied the genius of each city & country, placing it under its mental deity; Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of, & enslav'd the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects: thus began priesthood; Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales. And at length they pronounc'd that the Gods had order'd such things. Thus men forgot that all deities reside in the human breast.
    • Line 71

Poems from Blake's Notebook (c. 1791-1792)

  • Never seek to tell thy love
    Love that never told can be;
    For the gentle wind does move
    Silently, invisibly.

    I told my love, I told my love,
    I told her all my heart;
    Trembling, cold, in ghastly fears—
    Ah, she doth depart.

    Soon as she was gone from me
    A traveler came by
    Silently, invisibly—
    Oh, was no deny.
    • Never Seek to Tell
  • I asked a thief to steal me a peach:
    He turned up his eyes.
    I asked a lithe lady to lie her down:
    Holy and meek, she cries.

    As soon as I went
    An angel came.
    He winked at the thief
    And smiled at the dame—

    And without one word said
    Had a peach from the tree,
    And still as a maid
    Enjoyed the lady.
    • I Asked a Thief
  • Sleep, sleep, beauty bright,
    Dreaming o'er the joys of night.
    Sleep, sleep: in thy sleep
    Little sorrows sit and weep.
    • A Cradle Song, st. 1
  • Why art thou silent and invisible,
    Father of Jealousy?
    • To Nobody, st. 1
  • Love to faults is always blind,
    Always is to joys inclined,
    Lawless, winged, and unconfined,
    And breaks all chains from every mind.
    • Love to Faults
  • The sword sung on the barren heath,
    The sickle in the fruitful field;
    The sword he sung a song of death,
    But could not make the sickle yield.
    • The Sword Sung
  • Abstinence sows sand all over
    The ruddy limbs and flaming hair,
    But desire gratified
    Plants fruits of life and beauty there.
    • Abstinence Sows Sand
  • If you trap the moment before it's ripe,
    The tears of repentance you'll certainly wipe;
    But if once you let the ripe moment go
    You can never wipe off the tears of woe.
    • If You Trap the Moment
  • Then old Nobodaddy aloft
    Farted and belched and coughed,
    And said, "I love hanging and drawing and quartering
    Every bit as well as war and slaughtering."
    • Let the Brothels of Paris, st. 2
Several Questions Answered
  • He who binds to himself a joy
    Does the wingèd life destroy;
    But he who kisses the joy as it flies
    Lives in eternity's sunrise.
    • No. 1, He Who Binds
  • The look of love alarms
    Because 'tis filled with fire;
    But the look of soft deceit
    Shall win the lover's hire.
    • No. 2, The Look of Love
  • What is it men in women do require?
    The lineaments of gratified desire.
    What is it women do in men require?
    The lineaments of gratified desire.
    • No. 4, What Is It
  • You'll quite remove the ancient curse.
    • No. 5, An Ancient Proverb
Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a heaven in hell’s despair.
  • Hear the voice of the Bard,
    Who present, past, and future, sees;
    Whose ears have heard
    The Holy Word
    That walked among the ancient trees.
    • Introduction, st. 1
  • Turn away no more;
    Why wilt thou turn away?
    The starry floor,
    The watery shore
    Is given thee till the break of day.
    • Introduction, st. 4
  • Love seeketh not itself to please,
    Nor for itself hath any care,
    But for another gives its ease,
    And builds a heaven in hell's despair.
    • The Clod and the Pebble, st. 1
  • Love seeketh only Self to please,
    To bind another to its delight,
    Joys in another's loss of ease,
    And builds a hell in heaven's despite.
    • The Clod and the Pebble, st. 3
  • Little Fly,
    Thy summer's play
    My thoughtless hand
    Has brushed away.

    Am not I
    A fly like thee?
    Or art not thou
    A man like me?

    For I dance,
    And drink, and sing,
    Till some blind hand
    Shall brush my wing.
    • The Fly, st. 1–3
  • The modest Rose puts forth a thorn,
    The humble sheep a threat'ning horn:
    While the Lily white shall in love delight,
    Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.
    • The Lily
  • In every cry of every Man,
    In every Infant's cry of fear,
    In every voice, in every ban,
    The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.
    • London, st. 2
  • But most, thro' midnight streets I hear
    How the youthful Harlot's curse
    Blasts the new born Infant's tear,
    And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.
    • London, st. 4
  • 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.
    • The Human Abstract, st. 1
  • My mother groan'd! my father wept.
    Into the dangerous world I leapt:
    Helpless, naked, piping loud:
    Like a fiend hid in a cloud.
    • Infant Sorrow, st. 1
  • I was angry with my friend:
    I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
    I was angry with my foe:
    I told it not, my wrath did grow.
    • A Poison Tree, st. 1
  • In the morning glad I see
    My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree.
    • Ibid., st. 4
  • Children of the future Age
    Reading this indignant page,
    Know that in a former time
    Love! sweet Love! was thought a crime.
    • A Little Girl Lost, st. 1
  • Cruelty has a human heart,
    And Jealousy a human face;
    Terror the human form divine,
    And Secrecy the human dress.
    • A Divine Image, st. 1

The Tyger (1794)

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
  • Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
    in the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
    • St. 1
  • In what distant deeps or skies
    Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
    On what wings dare he aspire?
    What the hand dare seize the fire?
    • St. 2
  • When the stars threw down their spears,
    And water'd heaven with their tears,
    Did he smile his work to see?
    Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
    • St. 5

Letter to Revd. Dr. Trusler (1799)

What is Grand is necessarily obscure to Weak men. That which can be made Explicit to the idiot is not worth my care.
Letter to Revd. Dr. Trusler (23 August 1799)
  • What is Grand is necessarily obscure to Weak men. That which can be made Explicit to the idiot is not worth my care.
  • But Want of Money & the Distress of A Thief can never be alleged as the Cause of his Thieving, for many honest people endure greater hard ships with Fortitude. We must therefore seek the Cause else where than in want of Money for that is the Misers passion, not the Thiefs.
  • Fun I love, but too much Fun is of all things the most loathsom. Mirth is better than Fun & Happiness is better than Mirth.
  • To the Eyes of a Miser a Guinea is more beautiful than the Sun & and a bag worn with the use of Money has more beautiful proportions than a Vine filled with Grapes. The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the Eyes of others only a Green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all Ridicule and Deformity, and by these I shall not regulate my proportions; and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the Eyes of the Man of Imagination, Nature is Imagination itself. As a man is, So he Sees. As the Eye is formed, such are its Powers..


  • When a Man has Married a Wife
    He finds out whether
    Her Knees & elbows are only
    glued together.
    • Poems from Blake's Notebook (c. 1800–1803)
  • When nations grow old,
    the Arts grow cold,
    And Commerce settles on every tree:
    And the poor and the old
    Can live upon gold,
    For all are born poor.
                  Aged sixty-three.
    • On Art And Artists (1800) 'On the Foundation of the Royal Academy'
  • Fiery the Angels rose, and as they rose deep thunder roll'd
    Around their shores: indignant burning with the fires of Orc.
    • America, A Prophecy.
Blake's "A Negro Hung Alive by the Ribs to a Gallows", an illustration to J. G. Stedman's Narrative, of a Five Years' Expedition, against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1796).
  • Acts themselves alone are history, and these are neither the exclusive property of Hume, Gibbon nor Voltaire, Echard, Rapin, Plutarch, nor Herodotus. Tell me the Acts, O historian, and leave me to reason upon them as I please; away with your reasoning and your rubbish. All that is not action is not worth reading.
    • Blake's Exhibition and Catalogue of 1809, A Descriptive Catalogue of Pictures: Number V. The Ancient Britons
  • Art can never exist without Naked Beauty displayed.
    • The Laocoön
  • Art is the tree of life.
    SCIENCE is the Tree of DEATH
    ART is the Tree of LIFEGOD is JESUS
    • The Laocoön
  • Jesus & his apostles & disciples were all artists
    • The Laocoön, p. 271
Auguries of Innocence at Wikisource
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower…
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
God appears and god is light
To those poor souls who dwell in night
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.
  • To see a World in a Grain of Sand
    And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
    And Eternity in an hour.
    • Line 1
  • A robin redbreast in a cage
    Puts all Heaven in a rage.
    • Line 5
  • A dog starved at his master's gate
    Predicts the ruin of the state.
    • Line 9
  • He who shall hurt the little wren
    Shall never be beloved by men.
    • Line 29
  • A truth that's told with bad intent
    Beats all the lies you can invent.
    • Line 53
  • Man was made for joy and woe,
    And when this we rightly know
    Through the world we safely go.
    Joy and woe are woven fine,
    A clothing for the soul divine.
    • Line 56. Compare Psalm 30:5 (KJV): "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
  • Every tear from every eye
    Becomes a babe in eternity.
    • Line 67
  • He who shall teach the child to doubt
    The rotting grave shall ne'er get out.
    • Line 87
  • The strongest poison ever known
    Came from Caesar's laurel crown.
    • Line 97
  • He who doubts from what he sees
    Will ne'er believe, do what you please.
    If the sun and moon should doubt
    They'd immediately go out.
    • Line 107
  • The harlot's cry from street to street
    Shall weave old England's winding sheet.
    • Line 115
  • Every night, and every morn,
    Some to misery are born.
    Every morn, and every night,
    Some are born to sweet delight.
    Some are born to sweet delight.
    Some are born to endless night.
    • Line 123
  • God appears and god is light
    To those poor souls who dwell in night
    But does a human form display
    To those who dwell in realms of day
    • Line 129

Poems from Blake's Notebook (c. 1804)

Terror in the house does roar,
But Pity stands before the door.
  • My specter around me night and day
    Like a wild beast guards my way,
    My emanation far within
    Weeps incessantly for my sin.
    • My Specter, st. 1
  • And throughout all eternity
    I forgive you, you forgive me.
    • My Specter, st. 14
  • Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau.
    Mock on, mock on — 'tis all in vain!
    You throw the sand against the wind,
    And the wind blows it back again.
    • Mock On, st. 1
  • Terror in the house does roar,
    But Pity stands before the door.
    • Terror in the House

Poems from the Pickering Manuscript (c. 1805)

  • There is a smile of love,
    And there is a smile of deceit,
    And there is a smile of smiles
    In which these two smiles meet.
    • The Smile, st. 1
  • This cabinet is formed of gold
    And pearl and crystal shining bright,
    And within it opens into a world
    And a little lovely moony night.
    • The Crystal Cabinet, st. 2
  • For a tear is an intellectual thing,
    And a sigh is the sword of an Angel King,
    And the bitter groan of the martyr's woe
    Is an arrow from the Almighty's bow.
    • The Gray Monk, st. 8

Milton (c. 1809)

Time is the mercy of Eternity; without Time's swiftness Which is the swiftest of all things, all were eternal torment.
  • The Stolen and Perverted Writings of Homer & Ovid, of Plato & Cicero, which all men ought to contemn, are set up by artifice against the Sublime of the Bible
    • Preface
  • Rouze up, O Young Men of the New Age! set your foreheads against the ignorant Hirelings! For we have Hirelings in the Camp, the Court & the University, who would, if they could, for ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War.
    • Ibid
  • And did those feet in ancient time,
    Walk upon England's mountains green?
    And was the holy Lamb of God
    On England's pleasant pastures seen?

    And did the Countenance Divine
    Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
    And was Jerusalem builded here
    Among these dark Satanic mills?

    Bring me my Bow of burning gold,
    Bring me my Arrows of desire,
    Bring me my Spear — O clouds, unfold!
    Bring me my Chariot of fire!

    I will not cease from mental fight,
    Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
    Till we have built Jerusalem
    In England's green & pleasant land.
    • Prefatory Poem
  • Time is the mercy of Eternity; without Time's swiftness Which is the swiftest of all things, all were eternal torment.
    • Book the First, 24:72

Poems from Blake's Notebook (c. 1807-1809)

  • Great things are done when men and mountains meet;
    This is not done by jostling in the street.
    • Great Things Are Done
  • If you have formed a circle to go into,
    Go into it yourself and see how you would do.
    • To God
  • The Angel that presided o'er my birth
    Said, "Little creature, formed of joy and mirth,
    Go love without the help of any thing on earth."
    • The Angel That Presided
  • Grown old in love from seven till seven times seven,
    I oft have wished for Hell for ease from Heaven.
    • Grown Old in Love
Poetry Fetter'd. Fetters the Human Race. Nations are Destroy'd, or Flourish, in proportion as Their Poetry, Painting, and Music are Destroy'd or Flourish!
I rest not from my great task!
To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes
Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God, the Human Imagination.
I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Man's;
I will not Reason and Compare: my business is to Create.
  • Half Friendship is the bitterest Enmity...
    • Frontiespiece, plate 1, line 8 (as it seen on the additional plate, Fitzwilliam Museum).
  • Every Thing has its Vermin O Spectre of the Sleeping Dead!
    • Frontiespiece, plate 1, line 11 (as it seen on the additional plate, Fitzwilliam Museum).
  • Poetry Fetter'd. Fetters the Human Race. Nations are Destroy'd, or Flourish, in proportion as Their Poetry, Painting, and Music are Destroy'd or Flourish!
    • To the Public, plate 3 (the last paragraph)
  • I am not a God afar off, I am a brother and friend;
    Within your bosoms I reside, and you reside in me:
    Lo! we are One; forgiving all Evil; Not seeking recompense!
    • Ch. 1, plate 4, lines 18-28 The Words of Jesus to the Giant Albion
  • Trembling I sit day and night, my friends are astonish'd at me.
    Yet they forgive my wanderings, I rest not from my great task!
    To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes
    Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity
    Ever expanding in the Bosom of God. the Human Imagination
    • Ch. 1, plate 5, lines 16-20 The Words of Blake
  • O Saviour pour upon me thy Spirit of meekness & love:
    Annihilate the Selfhood in me, be thou all my life!
    Guide thou my hand which trembles exceedingly upon the rock of ages
    • Ch. 1, plate 5, lines 21-23 The Words of Blake
  • They have divided themselves by Wrath. they must be united by
    • Ch. 1, plate 7, lines 57-58 The Words of Los to his Spectre
  • Pity must join together those whom wrath has torn in sunder
    • Ch. 1, plate 7, lines 62 The Words of Los to his Spectre
  • I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Man's;
    I will not Reason and Compare: my business is to Create.
    • Ch. 1, plate 10, lines 20-21 The Words of Los
  • Ever Weeping Paddington...
    • Ch. 1, plate 12, line 28
  • For every thing exists & not one sigh nor smile nor tear,
    One hair nor particle of dust, not one can pass away.
    • Ch. 1, plate 13, line 66 — plate 14, line 1
  • I see the Four-fold Man.
    The Humanity in deadly sleep,
    And its fallen Emanation. The Spectre & its cruel Shadow.
    I see the Past, Present & Future, existing all at once
    Before me; O Divine Spirit sustain me on thy wings!
    • Ch. 1, plate 15, lines 6-9
    • Ch. 1, plate 26, lines 1-4
  • The fields from Islington to Marybone,
    To Primrose Hill and Saint John's Wood:
    Were builded over with pillars of gold,
    And there Jerusalems pillars stood.
    • Ch. 1, plate 27, "To the Jews" 1) lines 1-4
  • Pancrass & Kentish-town repose
    Among her golden pillars high:
    Among her golden arches which
    Shine upon the starry sky.
    • Ch. 1, plate 27, "To the Jews" 1) lines 9-12
  • He who would do good to another must do it in minute particulars;
    General good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer:
    For art and science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars.
    • Ch. 3, plate 55, line 60
  • What is a Wife & what is a Harlot? What is a Church & What
    Is a Theatre? are they Two & not One? can they Exist Separate?
    Are not Religion & Politics the Same Thing? Brotherhood is Religion
    O Demonstrations of Reason Dividing Families in Cruelty & Pride!
    • Ch. 3, plate 57
  • England! awake! awake! awake!
    Jerusalem thy sister calls!
    Why wilt thou sleep the sleep of death
    And close her from thy ancient walls?
    • Ch. 4, prefatory poem, plate 77, st. 1
  • It is easier to forgive an Enemy than to forgive a Friend.
    • Ch. 4, plate 91, line 1


  • Commerce is so far from being beneficial to Arts or to Empire, that it is destructive of both, as all their History shows, for the above Reason of Individual Merit being its Great Hatred. Empires flourish till they become Commercial & then they are scattered abroad to the four winds
    • Public Address, Blake's Notebook c. 1810
  • When I tell any Truth it is not for the sake of Convincing those who do not know it but for the sake of defending those who Do
    • Public Address, Blake's Notebook c. 1810
  • Every Harlot was a Virgin once
    • For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise: [Epilogue] To The Accuser who is The God of This World
  • It is not because Angels are Holier than Men or Devils that makes them Angels but because they do not Expect Holiness from one another but from God only
    • A Vision of the Last Judgment
  • Thinking as I do that the Creator of this World is a very Cruel Being & being a Worshipper of Christ, I cannot help saying: "the Son, O how unlike the Father!" First God Almighty comes with a Thump on the Head. Then Jesus Christ comes with a balm to heal it.
    • A Vision of the Last Judgment
  • This world of imagination is the world of eternity.
    • A Vision of the Last Judgment
  • You cannot have Liberty in this world without what you call Moral Virtue & you cannot have Moral Virtue without the Slavery of that half of the Human Race who hate what you call Moral Virtue
    • A Vision of the Last Judgment
  • I assert, for myself, that I do not behold the outward creation, and that to me it is hindrance and not action. "What !" it will be questioned, "when the sun rises, do you not see a round disc of fire somewhat like a guinea !" Oh ! no, no ! I see an innumerable company of the heavenly host crying "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty !" I question not my corporeal eye any more than I would question a window concerning a sight. I look through it, and not with it.
    • A Vision of the Last Judgment
  • ...some say that Happiness is not Good for Mortals & they ought to be answerd that Sorrow is not fit for Immortals & is utterly useless to any one a blight never does good to a tree & if a blight kill not a tree but it still bear fruit let none say that the fruit was in consequence of the blight.
    • Letter to William Hayley (1803-10-07)
  • The Goddess Fortune is the devils servant ready to Kiss any ones Arse.
    • Inscription on Illustrations to Dante "No. 16: HELL Canto 7"
  • The Old & New Testaments are / the Great Code of Art.
    • "Laocoön" [engraving] [1]

The Everlasting Gospel (c. 1818)

The Everlasting Gospel at Wikisource · The Everlasting Gospel as rendered in The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse (1917) edited by Nicholson & Lee
  • The vision of Christ that thou dost see
    Is my vision's greatest enemy.

    Thine has a great hook nose like thine;
    Mine has a snub nose like to mine.
    Thine is the Friend of all Mankind;
    Mine speaks in parables to the blind.
    Thine loves the same world that mine hates;
    Thy heaven doors are my hell gates.
  • If He had been Antichrist, Creeping Jesus,
    He'd have done anything to please us
    Gone sneaking into synagogues,
    And not us'd the Elders and Priests like dogs;
    But humble as a lamb or ass
    Obey'd Himself to Caiaphas.
  • God wants not man to humble himself:
    That is the trick of the Ancient Elf.
    This is the race that Jesus ran:
    Humble to God, haughty to man,
    Cursing the Rulers before the people
    Even to the Temple's highest steeple,
    And when He humbled Himself to God
    Then descended the cruel rod.
    ‘If Thou Humblest Thyself, Thou humblest Me.
    Thou also dwell’st in Eternity.
  • This life's dim windows of the soul
    Distorts the heavens from pole to pole
    And leads you to believe a lie
    When you see with, not through, the eye.
  • Seeing this False Christ, in fury and passion
    I made my voice heard all over the nation.

    I am sure this Jesus will not do
    Either for Englishman or Jew.

Miscellaneous poems and fragments from the Nonesuch edition

  • "I die, I die!" the Mother said,
    "My children die for lack of Bread."
    • The Grey Monk, stanza 1
  • My Brother starv'd between two Walls,
    His Children's Cry my Soul appalls;
    • Ibid, stanza 5
  • The iron hand crush'd the Tyrant's head
    And became a Tyrant in his stead.
    • Ibid, stanza 9


  • When a sinister person means to be your enemy, they always start by trying to become your friend.

  • [T]he man who never alters his opinions is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.
    • As quoted in William Blake: Bloom's Classic Critical Views, eds. Harold Bloom, Alexis Harley, Infobase Publishing (2008), p. 148 : ISBN 1438117078

Quotes about Blake

Only Nietzsche and Blake know a wholly fallen Godhead, a Godhead which is an absolutely alien Nihil, but the full reversal of that Nihil is apocalypse itself, an apocalypse which is an absolute joy, and Blake and Nietzsche are those very writers who have most evoked that joy. ~ Thomas J. J. Altizer
  • What is most needed today is a fundamental theological thinking, one centered upon the Godhead itself, and centered upon that which is most challenging or most offensive in the Godhead, one which has truly been veiled in the modern world, except by our most revolutionary thinkers and visionaries. If we allow Blake and Nietzsche to be paradigmatic of those revolutionaries, nowhere else does such a centering upon God or the Godhead occur, although a full parallel to this occurs in Spinoza and Hegel; but the language of Hegel and Spinoza is not actually offensive, or not in its immediate impact, whereas the language of Nietzsche and Blake is the most purely offensive language which has ever been inscribed. Above all this is true of the theological language of Blake and Nietzsche, but here a theological language is a truly universal language, one occurring in every domain, and occurring as that absolute No which is the origin of every repression and every darkness, and a darkness which is finally the darkness of God, or the darkness of that Godhead which is beyond “God.” Only Nietzsche and Blake know a wholly fallen Godhead, a Godhead which is an absolutely alien Nihil, but the full reversal of that Nihil is apocalypse itself, an apocalypse which is an absolute joy, and Blake and Nietzsche are those very writers who have most evoked that joy.
  • And again to quote Blake: “It is better to murder an infant in the cradle than to nurse an ungratified desire.”
    • Carl Andre, as quoted in 'Artists talks 1969 – 1977' ed. Peggy Gale, The Press N.S.C.A.D, Nova Scotia, Canada 2004, p. 15
  • ..I saw William Blake (in his dream), noble emanation of English genius... ...’Have confidence in your objects,’ he said, 'do not let yourself be intimidated by the horror of the world. Everything is ordered and correct and must fulfill its destiny in order to attain perfection. Seek this path'.. ..I awoke and found myself in Holland in the midst of boundless world turmoil. But my belief in the final release and absolution of all things, whether they please or torment, was newly strengthened.
    • Max Beckmann, in his public speech 'On my painting' for the exhibition ‘Twentieth-Century German Art’, London, 21 July 1938; Tate Publishing London, 2003
  • To me, it seems best to read Blake in company with his truest peers, Shakespeare and Milton, and with his greatest contemporaries, Wordsworth and Shelley. He was a visionary, rather than a mystic, and, like D. H. Lawrence and Sigmund Freud, he hoped to encourage us to exalt our human potential. Perhaps Blake can be best termed an apocalyptic humanist, who urges us never to forget that all deities reside in the human breast.
    • Harold Bloom (May 22, 2007) The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake ed. David V. Erdman (2008) Forward
  • I also liked the Romantic poets. Wordsworth, Keats, Burns and Blake were some of my favourites. There was something about their rebellious spirit against the evils of industrialization that moved me. Of course now, some of their pessimism, mysticism and limited critical realist visions make me quite uncomfortable.
  • I learned this bit of wisdom from a principle of William Blake's which I discovered early and followed far too assiduously the first half of my aesthetic life, and from which I have happily released myself and this axiom was: "Put off intellect and put on imagination; the imagination is the man." From this doctrinal assertion evolved the theoretical axiom that you don't see a thing until you look away from it which was an excellent truism as long as the principles of the imaginative life were believed in and followed. I no longer believe in the imagination.
  • There is no century in which Blake would not have seen angels.
  • It is not at all certain that a merely moral criticism of society may not be just as "revolutionary" — and revolution, after all, means turning things upside down — as the politico-economic criticism which is fashionable at this moment. Blake was not a politician, but there is more understanding of the nature of capitalist society in a poem like "I wander through each charter'd street" than in three-quarters of Socialist literature.
  • I think it was Blake's "The Tyger." I was given poems to copy, that was how my father taught me to do handwriting. "The Tyger" was one of them and it was so musical and mysterious. The wonderful image sank very deep very early. ("Do you remember the first poem that touched you deeply, that awakened you somehow?")
  • "I was angry with my friend,/I told my wrath, my wrath did end./I was angry with my foe,/I told it not, my wrath did grow." As an angry child, often urged to "curb my temper," I used to ponder those words of William Blake, but they slid first into my memory through their repetitions of sound, their ominous rhythms.
  • In the modern world, the Romantics were the last major cultural movement to assert the "truth of the imagination," defending art as a way of knowing the world that equalled or surpassed scientific reason. In their resistance to what Blake called "Satan's Mathematik Holiness," their goal was not to reject science but to enlarge it. ...the Romantics sought to understand by augmentation.
    • Betty and Theodore Roszak, "Deep Form in Art and Nature" Alexandria 4, Vol.4 The Order of Beauty and Nature (1997) ed. David Fideler
  • Blake deeply admired science; he never failed to portray it heroically. But he was concerned that science saw the universe from an odd angle that hid as much as it revealed. Science screened the value of things, the beauty of things, the sacredness of things as if these qualities might not really be there. Blake called this Single Vision, and contrasted it with his ideal Fourfold vision: an understanding that included the poetic, the sensuous, and the visionary along with the rational. ...he fervently prayed for our culture to be saved from the scientist's severe abbreviation of reality: "God us keep from Single Vision and Newton's Sleep."
    • Theodore Roszak, The Gendered Atom (1999)
  • Freud was frank to admit that Romantic artists like Blake had discovered the unconscious before he had. But... he could hardly adopt Blake's unsettling view of the scientific psyche.
  • Re-claiming, contextualizing, and interpreting their memories remain the historians' tasks. I am reminded of a line in William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence"-"To see a world in a grain of sand."
    • Vicki L. Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America
  • think: poems fixed this landscape: Blake, Donne, Keats
  • Most scientists would make very hard work of explaining how the concept of soul fits into the material universe, where there is nothing but "atoms and the void." Was this what Blake meant when he said that science was a tree of death? The death of religion? Of imagination? Both have been frequently suggested. ...Science is certainly our prime weapon against superstition and irrationalism, but in a world in which science flourishes—with or without God—love and fear remain, as do pleasure and regret, poetry and humor, art and music. The arts are not lessened by the sciences. Blake was mistaken: man's ineradicable gift, his questing curiosity, the divine discontent, is the common source of the arts and sciences.
    • Brian L. Silver, The Ascent of Science (1998)
  • It may seem to be a long way from Blake's innocent talk of love and copulation to De Sade's need to inflict pain. And yet both are the outcome of a sexual mysticism that strives to transcend the everyday world. Simone de Beauvoir said penetratingly of De Sade's work that 'he is trying to communicate an experience whose distinguishing characteristic is, nevertheless its will to remain incommunicable'. De Sade's perversion may have sprung from his dislike of his mother or of other women, but its basis is a kind of distorted religious emotion.
    • Colin Wilson in The Origins of the Sexual Impulse, p. 90 (1963)
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