Blake and Silliman

Silliman’s ‘School of Quietude’ idea is annoying in so many ways, but as an English, I find it particularly tiresome that he blames anglophilia for the quietudinosity. Today Ron is marking the 150th anniversary of Whitman self-publishing Leaves of Grass. Go and read what he has to say, then come back and read the rest of this.

This is from a poem which was self-published (and indeed self-printed) 201 years ago by an English poet, and named after another even earlier English poet. It is of course Milton a Poem by William Blake:

Timbrels & violins sport round the Wine-presses; the little Seed;
The sportive Root. the Earth-worm, the gold Beetle: the wise Emmet;
Dance round the Wine-presses of Luvah: the Centipede is there:
The ground Spider with many eyes: the Mole clothed in velvet
The ambitious Spider in his sullen web; the lucky golden Spinner;
The Earwig armd: the tender Maggot emblem of immortality:
The Flea: Louse: Bug: the Tape-Worm: all the Armies of Disease:
Visible or invisible to the slothful vegetating Man.
The slow Slug: the Grasshopper that sings & laughs & drinks:
Winter comes, he folds his slender bones without a murmur.
The cruel Scorpion is there: the Gnat: Wasp: Hornet & the Honey Bee:
The Toad & venomous Newt; the Serpent clothd in gems & gold:
They throw off their gorgeous raiment: they rejoice with loud jubilee
Around the Wine-presses of Luvah. naked & drunk with wine.

There is the Nettle that stings with soft down; and there
The indignant Thistle: whose bitterness is bred in his milk:
Who feeds on contempt of his neighbour: there all the idle Weeds
That creep around the obscure places, shew their various limbs.
Naked in all their beauty dancing–round the Wine-presses.

But in the Wine-presses the Human grapes sing not, nor dance
They howl & writhe in shoals of torment; in fierce flames consuming,
In chains of iron & in dungeons circled with ceaseless fires.
In pits & dens & shades of death: in shapes of torment & woe.
The plates & screws & wracks & saws & cords & fires & cisterns
The cruel joys of Luvahs Daughters lacerating with knives
And whips their Victims & the deadly sport of Luvahs Sons.

The late poems of Blake are not, of course, typical of English poetry in the C19th. But then Leaves of Grass isn’t typical of C19th American poetry either. Another C19th English poem can be found here. That one’s not typical either.