Verse > William Blake > Poetical Works
William Blake (1757–1827).  The Poetical Works.  1908.
Songs of Experience
The Lily
THE MODEST 1 Rose puts forth a thorn,
The humble Sheep a threat’ning horn;
While the Lily white shall in love delight,
Nor a thorn, nor a threat, stain her beauty bright.
Note 1. The Lily] In its present form this little poem might more fitly rank as a Song of Innocence than as a Song of Experience; but the first draft, with its successive alterations as seen in the Rossetti MS., shows that Blake originally conceived it in its ‘contrary state’. Beginning by writing:
The rose puts envious …
he replaced this by ‘The lustful rose’, finishing the line with the words ‘puts forth a thorn’, and concluding thus:
The coward sheep a threat’ning horn;
While the lily white shall in love delight,
And the lion increase freedom and peace.
Returning to this piece, perhaps when about to engrave it as one of the Songs, Blake deleted the last line, substituting for it:
The priest loves war, and the soldier peace—
but here, perceiving that his internal rime had disappeared, he cancelled this line also, and gave the poem an entirely different colour by changing the word ‘lustful’ to ‘modest’, and ‘coward’ to ‘humble’, and completing the quatrain (as in the engraved version) by a fourth line simply explanatory of the first three.
  Title] Wtg. in MS. [back]

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