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From "The Four Zoas," by William Blake

  • What is the price of experience? Do men buy it for a song?
  • Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price
  • Of all a man hath, his house, his wife, his children.
  • Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,
  • And in the wither’d field where the farmer plows for bread in vain.
  • It is an easy thing to triumph in the summer’s sun
  • And in the vintage and to sing on the waggon loaded with corn.
  • It is an easy thing to talk of prudence to the afflicted,
  • To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer,
  • To listen to the hungry raven’s cry in wintry season
  • When the red blood is fill’d with wine and with the marrow of lambs.
  • It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements,
  • To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughterhouse moan;
  • To see a god on every wind and a blessing on every blast;
  • To hear sounds of love in the thunder-storm that destroys our enemies’ house;
  • To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, and the sickness that cuts off his children,
  • While our olive and vine sing and laugh round our door, and our children bring fruits and flowers.
  • Then the groan and the dolour are quite forgotten, and the slave grinding at the mill,
  • And the captive in chains, and the poor in the prison, and the soldier in the field
  • When the shatter’d bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead.
  • It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity:
  • Thus could I sing and thus rejoice: but it is not so with me.


William Blake (1757–1827) is one of the greatest visionary poets in the English language as well as one of England’s greatest visual artists. In 1782 he married Catherine Sophia Boucher, whom he taught to read and write and to whom he remained devoted throughout his life. 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 who claimed often to converse with God, he railed against the sins of the church, all forms of bigotry and oppression, and, as this poem suggests, the far too frequent absence of human compassion. Blake died in poverty in 1827 and was buried in an unmarked grave. Not till long after his death was his eccentric genius recognized. This excerpt is from
The Four Zoas, composed in 1795. It remained unpublished until 1893.

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  • What is the price of experience? Do men buy it for a song?
  • Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price
  • Of all a man hath, his house, his wife, his children.
  • Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,
  • And in the wither’d field where the farmer plows for bread in vain.
  • It is an easy thing to triumph in the summer’s sun
  • And in the vintage and to sing on the waggon loaded with corn.
  • It is an easy thing to talk of prudence to the afflicted,
  • To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer,
  • To listen to the hungry raven’s cry in wintry season
  • When the red blood is fill’d with wine and with the marrow of lambs.
  • It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements,
  • To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughterhouse moan;
  • To see a god on every wind and a blessing on every blast;
  • To hear sounds of love in the thunder-storm that destroys our enemies’ house;
  • To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, and the sickness that cuts off his children,
  • While our olive and vine sing and laugh round our door, and our children bring fruits and flowers.
  • Then the groan and the dolour are quite forgotten, and the slave grinding at the mill,
  • And the captive in chains, and the poor in the prison, and the soldier in the field
  • When the shatter’d bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead.
  • It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity:
  • Thus could I sing and thus rejoice: but it is not so with me.


William Blake (1757–1827) is one of the greatest visionary poets in the English language as well as one of England’s greatest visual artists. In 1782 he married Catherine Sophia Boucher, whom he taught to read and write and to whom he remained devoted throughout his life. 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 who claimed often to converse with God, he railed against the sins of the church, all forms of bigotry and oppression, and, as this poem suggests, the far too frequent absence of human compassion. Blake died in poverty in 1827 and was buried in an unmarked grave. Not till long after his death was his eccentric genius recognized. This excerpt is from
The Four Zoas, composed in 1795. It remained unpublished until 1893.

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i don't usually like Blake...but i like this one

Sept. 20, 2011

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