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A New Respect for William Blakes' Auguries of Innocence

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Message Suzana Megles

I wish that I could appreciate poetry more than I have.  The reason for my
sudden desire to appreciate it more comes after reading a portion of William
Blake's "Auguries of Innocence."  Auguries?  Have to use my collegiate
dictionary AGAIN.  

Sandra sent it to me today via e-mail where she found it on Sally Anderson's
"Living Without Meat...." internet site.  Naysayers -don't knock it - it may finally
become a way of life for more and more Americans because we are finding that
it certainly bodes well on three fronts: our health, our environment, and
compassionate treatment of animals.

I've waited a long time for the medical community to see this, and I believe
they are finally acknowledging that meat and dairy are not the best or healthiest
of foods to eat daily in great quantities--which, of course, we have been doing for
a very long time.

I, as well as the rest of the teaching community of the 50's onwards to the
90's, were teaching youngsters the need to eat daily from "The Basic 4 Food
Groups"  (Meat, Dairy, Grain, Fruits and Vegetables).  And we believed what
these posters and pamphlets said --not knowing that the meat and dairy
industries were very closely allied with the USDA or whatever government
entity which sponsored them.

It is Sally Anderson's internet site title which caused this digression- sorry
but it is also her site which made me appreciate William Blake's "Auguries of
Innocence." No, I still didn't look up the word "auguries" but I imagine it means
the various and diverse occasions of innocence.  Will have to verify before I
leave this post.

Maybe some of you have read this poem of his before in your English Literature
class.  And maybe some of you were also impressed by it then.  Sadly, I don't
remember reading it in my English Literature course, but then I was struggling
with poetry generally.  Not my favorite genre by a long shot.  I was the big loser
then and even now, but finally I found a poem I really enjoyed.

Foremostly, it pleases me no end to read about the people like Blake who lived
many years ago and were compassionate even at a time when animals were
looked upon often indifferently and with little or no regard or respect.  I am happy
to note though that in each age there were people of compassion -though I believe
they were rather rare as compared to hopefully today's greater numbers.

Here's the first part which Sally Anderson printed on her site.  She noted that
William Blake was one of her favorite poets, but she only recently discovered
this poem which she knows people like her will especially appreciate:
      "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 Red breast in a Cage
      Puts all heaven in a Rage.
      A dove house fill'd with doves and Pigeons
      Shudders Hell thro' all its regions.
      A dog starv'd at his Master's Gate
      Predicts the ruin of the State.
      A Horse misus'd upon the Road
      Calls to Heaven for Human Blood.
      Each outcry of the hunted Hare
      A fibre from the Brain does tear.
      A Skylark wounded in the wing,
      A Cherubim does cease to sing.
      The Game co*k clip'd and arm'd for fight
      Does the Rising Sun affright.
      Every Wolf's and Lion's howl
      Raises from Hell a Human Soul.
      The wild deer, wand'ring here and there,
      Keeps the Human Soul from Care.
      The Lamb misus'd breeds Public strife
      And yet forgives the Butcher's Knife.
      The Bat that flits at close of Eve
      Has left the Brain that won't Believe.
      The Owl that calls upon the night
      Speaks the Unbeliever's fright.
      He who shall hurt the little Wren
      Shall never be belov'd by Men.
      He who the Ox to wrath has mov'd
      Shall never be by Woman lov'd.
      The wanton Boy that kills the Fly
      Shall feel the Spider's enmity.
      He who torments the Chafer's sprite
      Weaves a Bower in endless night........."

I think this is the first poem that I have really enjoyed.  Maybe it's because
I've finally tried to imagine what poets like Blake were saying with a paucity
of words.  Maybe its because THESE words are incomparably simple and beautiful
in their imagery.   I "saw" the robin red breast in a cage -putting all heaven in
a rage.  I "saw" a skylark wounded in the wing - a cherubim who does cease to
sing.   Why couldn't I see this before? 

Checked "augury" in my 1963 Webster's 7th New Collegiate Dictionary -the
very same one I used in college all these years ago.  I also checked my newer
1994 Webster New World Dictionary. 

    augury:  1. Divination from omens or portents or from chance events (as
                   the fall of lots.)  2. omen, portent  (the 1994 edition added
                   indication.)  I think indication fits the best in this poem's
                   title and meaning.

Thanx Sally for helping me to brush up on poetry.  Thanx Sandra for sending
me Sally's wonderful link which had a portion of William Blake's "Auguries of
Innocence." It is the portion that all three of us appreciated most.  I hope
others have also shared in our enthusiasm and appreciation for this portion
as well.

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I have been concerned about animal suffering ever since
I received my first puppy Peaches in 1975. She made me take a good look at the animal kingdom and I was shocked to see how badly we treat so many animals. At 77, I've been a vegan for the (more...)
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