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Short poem

William Blake (1757-1827)

I Heard an Angel

              1I heard an Angel singing
              2When the day was springing,
              3"Mercy, Pity, Peace
              4Is the world's release."

              5Thus he sung all day
              6Over the new mown hay,
              7Till the sun went down
              8And haycocks looked brown.

              9I heard a Devil curse
            10Over the heath and the furze,
            11"Mercy could be no more,
            12If there was nobody poor,

            13And pity no more could be,
            14If all were as happy as we."
            15At his curse the sun went down,
            16And the heavens gave a frown.

            17Down pour'd the heavy rain
            18Over the new reap'd grain ...
            19And Miseries' increase
            20Is Mercy, Pity, Peace.


1] This poem is closely related to the poem in Songs of Experience called "The Human Abstract," which is the counterpart in experience to "The Divine Image" in Songs of Innocence (see above). A draft of "The Human Abstract," with the title "The Human Image," is also in the Rossetti MS. In Blake's thought "image" and "abstract" are the units of the creative and the anti-creative attitudes respectively.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: William Blake, Poems, ed. Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1863).
First publication date: 1863
RPO poem editor: Northrop Frye
RP edition: 3RP 2.290.
Recent editing: 4:2002/3/14

Composition date: 1793
Composition date note: ca. 1793
Rhyme: aabb

Other poems by William Blake