May 31st, 2006


the tyger

A line towards the end of The Second Coming reminded me of another poem, written a century and a half earlier and one of only three poems I've ever learn'd off by heart.

By William Blake, originally created as part of Songs of Experience in 1794 to contrast against The Lamb from 1789 in Songs of Innocence.
Available in The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake.

The Lamb

   Little Lamb, who made thee?
   Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and 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?
   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, and he is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb.
We are called by his name.
   Little Lamb, God bless thee!
   Little Lamb, God bless thee!

The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies,
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


the soldier

Another of the three poems I could recite without referring to a text.
Written by Rupert Brooke, not long before his death. His corner is an olive grove on the Greek island of Skyros.
Available in The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke, though you may want to compare and contrast against another war poet, in Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen.

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me;
   That there's some corner of a foreign field,
That is for ever England. There shall be,
   In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
   Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's breathing English air,
   Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
   A pulse in the eternal mind, no less,
       Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
   And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
       In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.


my doggie don't wear glasses

The last of the three poems I've ever had the ability to recite, though for completely different reasons. Not quite as weighty a tome as the previous two. It appeared in the book Can I Come Down Now Dad? (and now in the omnibus The Family Pack: Brother-in-law and Other Animals, Can I Come Down Now Dad?, These Were Your Father's).
By John Hegley (who wears glasses).

My doggie don't wear glasses

my doggie don't wear glasses
so they're lying when they say
a dog looks like its owner
aren't they?