Potter on Blake, a Fragment

Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks

of Religion.

The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.

The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.

The nakedness of woman is the work of God.

Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.

The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging

of the stormy sea and the destructive sword, are portions

of eternity too great for the eye of man.

The fox condemns the trap, not himself.

Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.

I sit at my desk reading a sheaf of printed words, but all the while Blake the terrible puppet master jerks all the strings. This time he does not allow me the predatory pleasures of the tyger. I cannot leap into the heavens alongside him, seizing the fire, twisting the sinews. Again, and yet again, he requires me to document my unveiled ignorance. For I cannot dredge up anything coherent to say about these proverbs -- except that they frighten me. They seem to exist in order to prove that I am a trapped animal, a doomed beast, a burden of dust, who knows nothing, nothing at all, of death or life, good or evil, hell or paradise.

“Where man is not nature is barren,” Blake declares. Outside my window, a small wind clatters among the dry leaves and raps against the pane. Tomorrow is my forty-fifth birthday and all I have learned about myself is to keep reading. I look down at my book, and Blake says, “He who has suffered you to impose on him knows you.” For a moment the wind quiets, and now a single car sifts past, tyres sighing on the damp tarmac. I don’t know what the poet wants from me. But if nothing else, I can be sure he intends no comfort.

Dawn Potter, New Walk