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.
A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell through all its regions.
A dog starved at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipped and armed for fight
Does the rising sun affright.
Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raises from hell a human soul….
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be beloved by men.
He who the ox to wrath has moved
Shall never be by woman loved.
The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider’s enmity.
He who torments the chafer’s sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.
The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother’s grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the Last Judgment draweth nigh.
William Blake (1757–1827), one of England’s greatest poets and visual artists, was a printmaker and engraver who early in his career invented a technique for combining text and pictures on a single engraved plate. In 1782 he married Catherine Sophia Boucher, whom he taught to read and write. She assisted him in most of his artistic projects and they remained devoted to each other throughout their lives. Upon the occasion of an exhibition of his illuminated manuscripts in 1809, he was dismissed by one critic as “an unfortunate lunatic whose personal inoffensiveness secures him from confinement.” A profoundly religious visionary, Blake railed against the suppressive nature of religious orthodoxy and against all forms of bigotry and oppression. He died in poverty in 1827. Not till long after his death was William Blake’s eccentric genius recognized.