Boston & Books: Part 1 – William Blake

It’s been awhile. After May, I decided that I needed a break. Time to come back to myself. I’m starting out with a series called Boston and Books. Enjoy.

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Newbury Street: Quintessential Boston

Boston is a great city. For me, growing up in the country, the close quarters, the tall, narrow houses and crazy parking was overwhelming. People practically lived on top of each other, breathed each other’s air, rubbed shoulders on a constant basis. While it felt vaguely claustrophobic—or would have, I think, if I lived there permanently—it also felt strangely invigorating. It’s humanity in its most pure form. And then the history in that city, the birthplace of revolution and the accumulation of some of the greatest intellects in human history, humbled me. To walk the same streets, stand in the same buildings…
History and American greatness aside, the independent bookstores are one of the best parts of Boston. They fairly litter the place. Walking dowphoto-3n Newbury Street in the Back Bay area, Bonnie and I came across this little bookstore: Raven Used Books. Although during my preparation for this trip I read about the indie book depots, this is the first opportunity I had to walk into one. It was quaint, and cute, and full of used and rare books. I picked up this small, old edition of William Blake’s complete works printed originally in London for a steal. I wonder how it made its way to Boston over the intervening 90+ years.

While flipping carefully through the super-thin pages, I came across “The Lamb”:

 Little Lamb, who made thee?

Dost though know who made thee?

Gave thee life, & bid thee feed

By the Stream & o’er the mead;

Gave the clothing of delight

Softest clothing, wooly, bright;

Gave thee such a tender voice,

Making all the vales rejoice?

Little Lamb, who made thee?

Dost 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!

Upon further investigation, I found that this poem is part of Blake’s “Songs of Innocence” collection. The first post of this blog featured “The Tyger” from Blake’s “Songs of Experience.” These two poems juxtapose Jesus Christ with Lucifer. On a deeper level, they hold a mirror up to the human condition: the good and the bad, the servant of God and the natural man, innocence and experience, the meekness of the Lamb and the fearful symmetry of the Tyger. Between the two poems, however, I find myself more drawn to “The Tyger.” It’s evocative and fascinating, the language lyrical and strangely mesmerizing. I’m not sure if Blake did this intentionally to point out the draw of darkness. It’s a possibility.

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