I Wish I Were William Blake

I’m extremely fond of William Blake, not only as a writer but as a person.  He was perhaps unique in combining art, particularly engraving, with writing, and he worked hard on both.  He came of humble origins and seemed to be a very down-to-earth person: he supported the French Revolution – at least initially, before the Terrors –  and had what we would consider a very liberated outlook on society, including the role of women.  This painting of Cain after murdering Able is one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen:


His approach to religion was direct and personal and he had no time for the establishment.  This attitude seems to have been reciprocated, right up to the present day: last time I went to the Tate I had to hunt for his pictures and finally found them hidden away in a very ill-lit corner.


This is a disgrace: he is one of our greatest artists – at least as great as the far more popular Turner – and ought to be celebrated as such.  So in that spirit, here is today’s poem, a response to feelings of low self-esteem:

On Assertiveness

I wish I weren’t a little lamb

that frolics high o’er dale and hill;

the easy prey of spam or scam

that passes by, invisible:

I wish I were a tiger bright

in the forests of the night.

I wish I were a soldier bold

that didn’t start at shells,

that didn’t do as she was told

but cast anarchic spells

a warrior perceived as brave

a stoic in a well-marked grave.

I wish I weren’t a lilyflower

in livery of white

a maiden in a silly tower

a prisoner of spite.

A lion left without a zoo

– even a dandelion would do.


I wish I were a macerator

chomping down on life

a well-ferocious lacerator

living by the knife

– reduce the universe to mulch

to fertilise my inner gulch.


If only I were someone else!

How powerful I’d feel

bombarding mysteries with shells

and crushing under heel

the world of doubt and paradox

attending schools of harder nox.


But then, it’s hardly progress

to wish you were a soldier

or some electric ogress

that makes the life-force mouldier

surely there’s some middle ground

where an answer’s to be found?


Perhaps.  if I hold steady

the oscillating compass

so mastering the eddy

and jumping, tame the jumpers;

if I can crush the opposites

perhaps I’ll sit where Poppa sits.


Our histories insist

that tide waits for no man

but woman gets the gist

and comprehends her span;

so, swimming with the deeper tide

– not drowning, waving – gets a ride.


Let’s leap into despair

and call its bloody bluff;

end the opposing pair

and cry aloud: ‘Enough!’

Let Burnham come to Dunsinane

see?  That perfection hunt’s in vain.

Kirk out