Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand and Eternity in an hour

sun through haze

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

Auguries of Innocence

(excerpt)

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 game-cock clipped and armed for fight
Doth the rising sun affright;
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to Heaven for human blood;
Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raises from hell a human soul;
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain doth tear;
A skylark wounded on the wing
Doth make a cherub cease to sing.

by William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827)
from his poem Auguries of Innocence

Symbols and Quests

When Angelina Jolie’s character in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider quoted William Blake’s poem Auguries of Innocence, she joined others as diverse as Jim Morrison and Hannibal Lecter. Jim Morrison used a line from this poem in lyrics from the Doors first album, and in the book Red Dragon, Hannibal Lecter used the line “A robin redbreast in a cage puts all heaven in a rage” as a clue for the FBI. Bob Dylan and Agatha Christy also used lines from Auguries of Innocence.

Poetry is powerful. It can tap into something stronger than time.

What are Auguries? An “augury” is an omen, a sign of things to come. Augury can also be the practice of being sensitive to omens – like divination, or magical foresight. In this case, the poem is a series of pairs of lines that can be read as comparing good and evil, kindness and cruelty, beauty and corruption – auguries that challenge us to be aware and to gently love our natural world.

What’s an omen without a little interpretative divination? Each line can be taken as a call for a deeper “sight” into the little decisions that make up an hour, or a life.

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One Response to “Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand and Eternity in an hour”

  1. Eric Says:

    Life sure is amazing. The first four lines of this poem especially bring that out. I work with the movement for indefinite life extension for just these reasons, for these notions brought out in these lines. Who could arrive here, see this, realize this and then not put up a fight as we slide back toward the abyss? I cant, I wont, I fight.

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