Tag Archives: William Blake

Toast to the Revolutionary

26 Nov

My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but oh my soul is white!
White as an angel is the English child,
But I am black, as if bereaved of light.

William Blake Pub, Old Street, London. LLEWELLYN 2010


When William Blake wrote the revolutionary poem Little Black Boy in 1789, could he ever have imagined that over 300 years later there would be a pub named after him with a black man on the door as the bouncer.

The poem, described as the “finest of the abolishment movement” spoke out against the condemnation of black people in England during his time.

Blake envisioned a time where black people would be accepted as equals; as the poem depicts a mother’s lesson to her son of looking ahead to ‘a world to come’.

Although some may view this as the heavenly reward, I perceived this as a ‘future age’ where colour differences will be thought irrelevant.


Until the end of the century, Blake was actively involved with the fight to abolish slavery.

‘In the 1780s and 1790s, he believed that the freedom he longed for was actually at hand, but later he was less optimistic. But he never ceased from mental fight against the prevailing ideas of his time’ (Smith, 2002, p.216). 

I wonder how Blake would comment on the abolishment of slavery in 1833. Furthermore, I wonder if he could have ever imagined that one day there would be a black man as the figure of authority on the door of his very own pub.

I obviously felt compelled to toast a drink to the great revolutionary.

“Joy is my name”

7 Nov

'Happy', Sarah and I

Infant Joy

I have no name;
I am but two days old.”
What shall I call thee?
“I happy am,
Joy is my name.”
Sweet joy befall thee!
Pretty joy!
Sweet joy, but two days old.
Sweet Joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while;
Sweet joy befall thee! (William Blake)

My nephew Harry Jackson, aged 1 and a half, affectionately known as ‘Happy’ is the epitome of Blake’s vision of childhood Innocence.

When I say that, I do not mean he sits with his golden harp. He enjoys life to the full, he is genuinely the most happy person I have ever met.

Childhood, to Blake, was seen as desirable as he believed that children have a mystical quality that enables them to see life in a different way, similar to his own perception.


What makes Blake’s vision so appealing is this ability to bring all humans together, regardless of age, class or gender. I believe Blake deliberately presents Old John, the mother and the children at the same level in his etching for Echoing Green. The illustrations in the etching are all very balanced displaying the children, adults and nature at par with one another.

I love going to my Grandma’s house when the room is full of my family from completely different generations sitting round Harry, laughing and encouraging his play and creativity.

My Grandma says Harry can play with whatever he wants, as long as he is safe. He quite happily pulls apart the newspapers and drags the food out of the fridge, laughing hysterically as he goes.

We allow his play, just as Blake would want. Grandma has the same mentality as Old John on the green, and I admire this so much.


In The Nurse’s Song, the children here can clearly see – perhaps through the eye of the imagination – something the nurse cannot: even though the sun has gone down, they can still see the ‘little birds fly’.

The strength of the nurse lies in her willingness to realise that their perception may be stronger than her own in the sense that they are able to see beyond black and white landscape, with the ability to imagine and enjoy life around them.

Harry may sit and laugh and we do not know what is funny. Whilst we are confused, it is the most marvelous thing.

The nurse gives the children some responsibility for determining their own lives rather than imposing conventional demands upon them; they are able to be free.

Harry is interested in everything in the room; what is in the small box by the fireplace which I never even noticed, the hands on the clock, the cards on the table.

He is not bound to rules, he is able to learn and play freely.


The character ‘on a cloud’ is seen as desirable in the Introduction; since the child is floating on a cloud freely and not bound to the earth it symbolises a strong figure of freedom and spontaneity. The child is also directing the piping showing how children have power and are able to make demands.

 ‘Pipe a song about a lamb’, says the child; I believe the child is making the demands to Blake and he is responding to them. By doing so, Blake is accepting the child as an equal. He wants to make the innocent child happy; ‘And I wrote my happy songs Every child may joy to hear’.

As a family, we all sit round and desperately want to make the child happy. He runs to us all, sometimes uncontrollably filled with joy. I remember one time he was so ecstatic he kept tumbling over. His happiness is infectious, and you couldn’t help but laugh with him.

Blake’s wife Catherine said that he kept this childlike mentality throughout his life

Harry VIII

and ‘died singing’.