I recently had a memorization due in my Haluska 19th Century British Literature class. I chose Blake.
19th century literature defines the feelings that society was going through at the time. Rigid religious structure was frustrating and the people wanted something real, something they could identify with. Nature became the picture of holiness, the noble savage – the everyday man became the hero, and innocence became more valuable than experience. Romantic principles that defined the time period have become our norm. We call mountains majestic and deny their Creator even a second thought. Our own thoughts on any given subject are practically truth because we think that highly of ourselves and our own intellect. We are romantics…not the write me a song/candle-lit dinner/stare lovingly into each other’s eyes version, but the romantic thinkers. We have bitten their hook and swallowed it completely. And we all thought modernism was our idea..hah!
Anyways…I digress just a bit from the point I wanted to make. Raising awareness by preaching the social gospel was also something that the 19th century fed us. The plight of the everyday man became extra ordinary and something to talk about. This attracted me to William Blake. He writes about little chimney sweep boys and orphans who need a better life. The poem I chose to memorize is called Holy Thursday. According to my lit book, Holy Thursday was a day during the Easter season when the poor and orphaned children would be marched in a procession to a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. William Blake…speaking for those who couldn’t…inspiring.
Is this a holy thing to see, In a rich and fruitful land, Babes reduced to misery, Fed with cold and usurous hand?
Is that trembling cry a song? Can it be a song of joy? And so many children poor? It is a land of poverty!
And their sun does never shine, And their fields are bleak and bare, And their ways are fill’d with thorns; It is eternal winter there.
For where-e’er the sun does shine, And where-e’er the rain does fall, Babe can never hunger there, Nor poverty the mind appall.