The Notebook of William Blake - Folio N109 and N108
Copyright © The British Library Board
N109 & N108
These two folios are intricate and at times hard to decipher, but include two of Blake's greatest poems: 'London' and 'The Tyger'.
Both 'London' and 'The Tyger' have a vertical line through them, indicating selection for Experience, as do 'To Nobodaddy', 'Nurses Song' and 'The Lilly'. Despite its selection, however, 'To Nobodaddy' was never in fact etched.
The version of 'London' in the notebook was further revised before it was etched. 'Each dirty street Near where the dirty Thames does flow' refers to the narrow streets near Blake's home at 13 Hercules Buildings, Lambeth. Backing onto the Thames, they housed the labourers who worked for the local manufacturers, and the 'infants cry of fear' would have been heard by Blake emanating from the nearby Lying In Hospital and Asylum.
Blake used both of these folios to work on 'The Tyger', the verses on N108 written over a pencil sketch of Satan rising up, intended for 'Paradise Lost'. Blake's assiduity in the composition of 'The Tyger' is evident from these two folios. The first three stanzas have been entered as fair copy on the bottom right hand side of folio N109, but the following five lines have been completely deleted. Blake finished off the poem on this folio by repeating - with very few changes - the first stanza. He then moved across to the facing page (N108) and drafted another stanza of 'The Tyger' on the bottom left hand side (perhaps inspired by the Milton sketch he was overwriting). He then amended certain words, and rearranged the order of the lines (the new ordering can be seen by the small numbering added at the head of each line). It was only at this point that he turned back to N108 and added the title of the poem -'The Tyger- above the horizontal line he had scored to establish space for the poem.
We have used the published version for the reading of these poems 'The Tyger' and 'London' from Songs
of Experience for the audio.