The Notebook of William Blake - Folio N107 and N106
Copyright © The British Library Board
N107 & N106
Blake wrote the title 'The human image' towards the top left hand side of folio
N107, and began the poem by borrowing four lines from 'I heard an Angel singing'
(N114). Around this, he constructed a new poem, which was to be the contrary to
'The Divine Image' from Songs of Innocence. When he was ready to start
relief etching, Blake added capitalisation and punctuation, but he also made one
significant amendment, changing the title from 'The human image' to 'The Human
Blake often worked in deliberate contrast to his earlier work, and on this folio
'The Sick Rose' stands in contrast to 'The Blossom' of Songs of Innocence.
Blake wrote two stanzas of 'The Sick Rose' and then, using the same ink, he began
another poem, before returning later to amend the verses using a pencil. Following
further revision at a later date, the final version of 'The Sick Rose' in the
O rose though art sick
The invisible worm
That flies in the night
In the howling storm
Hath found out thy bed
Of crimson joy
And her dark secret love
Does thy life destroy
Blake had therefore reassigned the gender of the worm that corrupts the rose,
crossing through the word 'his', and writing in 'her'. This was not the end of
his uncertainty over the poem, for, just before etching it for inclusion in Experience,
the first reading ('his') was restored.
Blake also worked on 'An ancient Proverb' on the bottom right hand corner of this
folio. There are veiled references to events of 1792 when Tom Paine was found
guilty (in absentia) for seditious libel, following the publication of his Rights
of Man. The line from 'An ancient Proverb' that reads, 'Remove away that
man of blood' seems addressed to those who led the persecution of many writers,
publishers, and lawyers thought to hold revolutionary views. Later, when Blake
transferred this poem to folio N99, he removed the word 'man', replacing it with
a dash. His fear of being labelled a radical was obviously great at this time
(and is shown in his anxious statement at the beginning of the book on N4: 'I
say I shant live five years And if I live one it will be a Wonder June 1793').
Erdman identifies the pencil illustration under the verse on this folio as a sketch for 'Pity', although it differs from the 1795 colour print.
Of the poems on this folio, 'A Little Boy Lost' and 'The Chimney Sweeper' were
selected for relief etching in the Songs of Experience. 'A Little Boy
Lost' is in explicit contrast to 'The Little Boy found' in Innocence. Blake awakes
a terrible fear in the reader, as his verse relates the sacrifice of children
at the hands of the Priest, and the impotence of the parents in the horror that
unfolds. He does little in these verses to hide his contempt of organised religion
and its power over people.
There is one stanza of 'The Chimney Sweeper' on this folio. The remainder of the poem is on folio N103. Prior to etching Blake made no changes to the title or the verse here.