I will not Reason and Compare: my business is to Create

passion flower

Making a statement

I must Create a System, or be enslav’d by another Man’s;
I will not Reason and Compare: my business is to Create.

by William Blake (28 November 1757–12 August 1827)
from Jerusalem The Emanation of The Giant Albion
Plate 10
image – Hamed Saber

Big Poetry

You can see a scan of the original calligraphy and a full-text transcription of this excerpt’s source at blakearchive.org – wonderful resource. I’m giving you links to Plate 10. Jerusalem The Emanation of The Giant Albion encompasses 100 page-sized plates of illuminated etchings, packed from edge to edge with poetry and illustrations. This is a Big poem. We don’t make them like this any more – not many people ever have.

Much of Blake’s poetry is too dense for most of today’s readers. Some of his writing is heavy going, partially because the language has changed, but that’s not all – Blake was always different, and challenging. His theology and philosophies were personal and independent. He insisted on meticulous, time-consuming, financially impractical printmaking techniques, moreso as he aged and felt the art had matured – later work demanded more from both artist and reader. Blake lived hand-to-mouth, content to be doing good work. He made art until the very end, completing one last project while literally on his deathbed.

Whatever any of us think of reading Blake, once in a while there are lines that shout straight through time and hold onto our hearts. Vibrant lines like these are still making it into popular culture, over 200 years after his death.

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.by William Blake
from Auguries of Innocence

I see that when I wrote about Auguries of Innocence last year I had some of the same thoughts about the way Blake transcends time. I wrote, “Poetry is powerful. It can tap into something stronger than time.”

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