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The Clod and the Pebble -- William Blake

Guest poem sent in by Gregory Marton
(Poem #1452) The Clod and the Pebble
 Love seeketh not Itself to please,
 Nor for itself hath any care;
 But for another gives its ease,
 And builds a Heaven in Hell's despair.

     So sang a little Clod of Clay,
     Trodden with the cattle's feet:
     But a pebble of the brook,
     Warbled out these metres meet.

 Love seeketh only Self to please,
 To bind another to Its delight:
 Joys in another's loss of ease,
 And builds a Hell in Heaven's despite.
-- William Blake
I'm not sure if by ordering the clod first the poem's bent is actually
pessimistic, but in coming upon this from the pebble's passion, I found
myself rejoyced, and remembered to smile. This is in Songs of Experience,
which caught my eye with its illuminated illustrations and pleasant price
at a used book sale. Heaven sends the choicest gems to break Hell's mood!

Your humble Clod,

[Martin adds]

Blake's ordering of the verses here reminds me of another of his Songs of
Experience, "A Poison Tree" [Poem #1087]. It has a similar 'dark' structure,
upholding (or seeming to uphold) schadenfreude over selflessness.  Gremio is
right - one would expect the "moral" of the poem to support the clod, and
Blake's letting the pebble have the last word flies in the face of those
expectations, making the modern reader (at least) slightly uneasy.

54 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Yen2x said...

I don't agree with Gremio; especially since the Clod's idea is not
pessimistic but more of our own idealistic definition of love while the pebble says
that love is a very selfish activity and would seem to be the pessimistic one.


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yes I agreee with Yen2x, the tone of the poem is optimistic, Blake is praising love and the positive unselfish manifestations and how love can transform a hell in heaven.

Cameron said...

I love this poem! The clod speaks of love from its own experience -- despite its rough life it knows what love is. The pebble, having sought its own good all its life knows only selfish love. The pebble is the pessimist who barks against others' true experiences of love because the pebble itself has never loved.

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Anonymous said...

I think this is poem shows the two natures of love. The last verse suggests that being in love is selfish in as much as it demands the love of the other person to please it. It wants the other person to share its delight because love is wanting someone to delight in that which you delight in. Once the other person has succumbed, they suffer sleeplessness, excitability, longing to be with the other person and general unease. Where they were content to be alone in their own 'Heaven', they are now not, a Hell in Heaven. I have never seen the word 'despite' as a noun. That is interesting. Also it seems to me an empirical poem - I cannot imagine there is any other interpretation but that which outlined - though I may be wrong.

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