Verse > William Blake > Poetical Works
William Blake (1757–1827).  The Poetical Works.  1908.
Poems from the Rossetti MS.: Earlier Poems
Infant Sorrow
MY 1 mother groan’d, my father wept;
Into the dangerous world I leapt,
Helpless, naked, piping loud,
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.
Struggling in my father’s hands,
Striving against my swaddling-bands,
Bound and weary, I thought best
To sulk upon my mother’s breast.
When I saw that rage was vain,
And to sulk would nothing gain,        10
Turning many a trick and wile
I began to soothe and smile.
And I sooth’d day after day,
Till upon the ground I stray;
And I smil’d night after night,        15
Seeking only for delight.
And I saw before me shine
Clusters of the wand’ring vine;
And, beyond, a Myrtle-tree
Stretch’d its blossoms out to me.        20
But a Priest with holy look,
In his hands a holy book,
Pronouncèd curses on his head
Who the fruits or blossoms shed.
I beheld the Priest by night;
He embrac’d my Myrtle bright:
I beheld the Priest by day,
Where beneath my vines he lay.
Like a serpent in the day
Underneath my vines he lay:        30
Like a serpent in the night
He embrac’d my Myrtle bright.
So I smote him, and his gore
Stain’d the roots my Myrtle bore;
But the time of youth is fled,        35
And grey hairs are on my head.
Note 1. Infant Sorrow] The two opening stanzas of this poem were later engraved by Blake as one of the Songs of Experience. Cp. also another treatment of the same theme in the first version of the ‘Myrtle’, which follows on the next blank leaf of the MS. Book. 11 I began to trick and wile MS. 1st rdg. del.; Seeking many an artful wile MS. 2nd rdg. del. 13 sooth’d] grew MS. 1st rdg. del.; smil’d MS. 2nd rdg. del. 15 smil’d] grew MS. 1st rdg. del. 17 From this point onwards I give in the text the earlier and preferable form of the remaining stanzas. Stanza v originally began with the cancelled couplet:
But upon the earthly ground
No delight was to be found.
21 But a Priest] My father then MS. 2nd rdg. 29–32 The two couplets of this stanza were at first written in reversed order.
  v–ix These last five stanzas were afterwards altered to the following form, most of the changes being dependent upon the substitution of ‘many a Priest’ for ‘a Priest’ in stanza vi:
And I saw before me shine
Clusters of the wand’ring vine;
And many a lovely flower and tree
Stretch’d their blossoms out to me.
But many a Priest with holy look,
In their hands a holy book,
Pronounc’d curses on my head
And bound me in a myrtle shade.
I beheld the Priests by night;
They embrac’d the blossoms bright:
I beheld the Priests by day;
Underneath the vines they lay.
Like to holy men by day
Underneath the vines they lay:
Like to serpents in the night
They embrac’d my myrtle bright.
So I smote them, and their gore
Stain’d the roots my myrtle bore;
But the time of youth is fled,
And grey hairs are on my head.
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