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Like a Comet Going By - William Blake

lambs in Ambleside last spring
  
Let Blake's 'Songs of Innocence' represent their standard in poetry. - Charlotte Mason


Blake's colored engraving of The Lamb


One of the first pieces of poetry my oldest son memorized was The Lamb by William Blake from Songs of Innocence.  Few things are sweeter than listening to a six-year-old recite this. (Why didn't I record that?)  Consequently, I memorized it also.  That was 20 years ago.  I believe it was Carole Joy Seid who gave me the idea.  Do you know it?

The Lamb
William Blake 

Little Lamb, who made thee
Does thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing woolly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice.
Making all the vales rejoice:
Little Lamb who made thee
Does thou know who made thee

Little Lamb I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb I'll tell thee;
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by His name,
Little Lamb God bless thee,
Little Lamb God bless thee. 

In our TBG community, William Blake is our poet this term,thus exposing my youngest 4 to this eccentric genius. A fabulous living book to read about Blake is James Daugherty's William Blake. I enjoyed how he portrayed Blake's solid marriage to Catherine, detailed descriptions of his ground-breaking engraving techniques, and quirky as well as terrifying visions.   Karla, our poetry teacher, has done an amazing job of letting us know about his engraving and life while keeping the poetry the main focus. The thing is the thing. 




Now, while the students are enjoying the poetry, we moms share all sorts of findings amongst ourselves. I recently read and loved Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More - Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior. So you can see how thrilled I was when we came across this quote regarding Blake and his visits to a Mrs. Mathews:

Mrs. Mathews, with Mrs. Sarah Siddons, the tragic actress; Angelica Kauffmann, the portrait painter, and Hannah More, the poet and writer, were only a few of the brilliant women of the new Age of Reason, of Invention, of the Machine, and of Liberty that was rising out of a changing world as the eighteenth century drew to a tumultuous close.  Men in Britain were beginning reluctantly to admit that women had minds.                -from William Blake by Daugherty, p.39
I love it when that happens! Hannah More knew William Blake!   But I must tell you why he stopped attending these evenings:

Blake began to come less often to Mrs. Mathews' intellectual evenings. He felt humiliated by Mrs. Mathews' patronage, and the artificial atmosphere and silly chatter of her stuffy evenings was becoming unbearable.  Gossipy ladies found it disconcerting to listen to an intense young man seriously report that he had recently attended a fairies' funeral and who told of having just had a pleasant evening's conversation with Socrates and the prophet Isaiah. Beneath his mild, soft-spoken manner there was something that blazed and shone like a comet going by. -from William Blake by Daugherty, p. 41

He was such an interesting, weird, well-read man.

So when we learned we would be reading Blake this term, the words of The Lamb came back to me almost instantly.  I suppose that's part of why Mason only wants us to give our children the best - it becomes part of who you are.  And my youngest has chosen The Lamb for her recitation piece!


Warmly,
Nancy

Here's the full quote from Mason - 

Children must be Nurtured on the Best––For the children? They must grow up upon the best. There must never be a period in their lives when they are allowed to read or listen to twaddle or reading-made-easy. There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told. Let Blake's 'Songs of Innocence' represent their standard in poetry; De Foe and Stevenson, in prose; and we shall train a race of readers who will demand literature––that is, the fit and beautiful expression of inspiring ideas and pictures of life. Perhaps a printed form to the effect that gifts of books to the children will not be welcome in such and such a family, would greatly assist in this endeavour.  Volume 2.263

A few favorite lines from Blake's Augeries 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.

8 comments:

  1. Here's a musical setting by an acquaintance: http://clearnotesongbook.com/song/little-lamb
    Elsa

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    1. Thank you, Elsa! We are enjoying that very much!
      Warmly,
      Nancy

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  2. Here's a musical setting by an acquaintance: http://clearnotesongbook.com/song/little-lamb
    Elsa

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  3. What a beautiful lamb snapshot!!! This is so neat, Nancy. I'm reading Fierce Convictions now and it's fascinating. Blake is on my list for poets eventually. That is so neat about the Daugherty title about him! That connection between the two is amazing!!! How neat!!! Recently for some reason, the children and I were talking/reading the Charge of the Light Brigade...and we've had two or THREE references to that very poem crop up in various places and readings. :)

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    1. We do the "CONNECTIONS!!" dance whenever that happens like the good homeschool geeks we can occasionally be.

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  5. Nancy, I know this in an older post, but I've been reading up on Blake as our group has decided to read his poetry this fall. I found this NPR interview with folk artist Martha Rebone, who has put some of Blake's poems to music. I've listened to a few, and they are good!

    http://www.npr.org/2012/10/11/162714267/blakes-poems-reborn-as-bluesy-folk-tunes-burn-bright

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