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