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William Blake in pictures and quotations about artists, roses, foxes, eternity, and mercy

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"A Truth can never be told so as to be understood and not be believed." William Blake was an artist and a master of words, he used to print books with his own texts and illustrations, today we would call them "artbooks". Here we’ve put together his straight-to-the-point wisdoms and illustrations to mark the 260th anniversary of the birth and the 190th anniversary of the death of the British Romanticist.
The Angel that presided ‘oer my birth
Said, "Little creature, form’d of Joy and Mirth,
"Go love without the help of any Thing on Earth."
Love and harmony combine,
And round our souls entwine
While thy branches mix with mine,
And our roots together join.

Joys upon our branches sit,
Chirping loud and singing sweet;
Like gentle streams beneath our feet
Innocence and virtue meet.
William Blake. Newton
Newton
1805, 46×60 cm
William Blake. The first book Urizen. Arisen in the center of the explosion


The Fly

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.

If thought is life
And strength and breath,
And the want
Of thought is death,

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.


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 Endless Night.

***
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.
William Blake. Good and evil angel
Good and evil angel
1805, 44.5×59.4 cm
And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew.
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell,
There God is dwelling too.
William Blake. Nebuchadnezzar
Nebuchadnezzar
1805, 54.3×72.5 cm
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.
William Blake. The dream of the young poet. Illustrations to the poems of Milton's "Fun" and "Thoughtful"
William Blake. Joy. Illustrations to the poems of Milton's "Fun" and "Thoughtful"
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

***
Why stand we here trembling around, calling on God for help, and not ourselves, in whom God dwells?


William Blake. The Ghost Of A Flea

I have mental joy, and mental health
And mental friends, and mental wealth;
I’ve a wife I love, and that loves me;
I’ve all but riches bodily

I am in God’s presence night and day
And He never turns His face away;
The accuser of sins by my side doth stand
And he holds my money-bag in his hand

For my worldly things God makes him pay
And he’d pay for more if to him I would pray;
And so you may do the worst you can do;
Be assur’d, Mr. Devil, I won’t pray to you

Then if for riches I must not pray
God knows, I little of prayers need say;
So, as a church is known by its steeple
If I pray it must be for other people.


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 fox condemns the trap, not himself.

The crow wish’d every thing was black, the owl, that every thing was white.

The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty, the hands and feet Proportion.

Prudence is a rich, ugly, old maid courted by incapacity.

If others had not been foolish, we should be so.

He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.

Eternity is in love with the creations of time.

Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.

One thought, fills immensity.

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.


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Title illustration: detail of William Blake’s The Ancient of Days, 1794.
Artists mentioned in the article
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