Rout of the Rebel Angels, by William Blake

A Dog Starv'd

A dog starv'd at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.
      -- William Blake,
     "Auguries of Innocence"

Monday, August 13, 2007

Welcome to A Dog Starv'd

As you can see from its description, I've cribbed this blog's name from William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence." This is the long (by contemporary standards) poem which begins, famously:
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
Not quite the smiley-faced hymn to all things beautiful and miraculous that these opening lines prepare us for, the poem as a whole is a savage indictment of a society which places way too much stock in the wrong things. The complete text can be found numerous places around the Web, including this page from the Academy of American Poets, and -- as you can see there -- is often presented as a single massive block of 132 lines. More readable versions (like this one) break it up into couplets and/or quatrains, which makes it easier to absorb the force of Blake's vision -- and its relevance to early 21st-century America. E.g.:
A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar's laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour's iron brace.
And so on.

These lamentations and warnings alternate, roughly, with assertions more in keeping with the tenor of the opening four lines -- assertions such as these:
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
One mite wrung from the lab'rer's hands
Shall buy and sell the miser's lands;
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.
Despite my choice of epigraph, I'm not going to use ADS as a soapbox strictly (or even mostly) for political pronouncements. I've tried that before (as you can see, in all its broken-imaged glory) and found it impossible to sustain this kind of single-purposed howl across more than a few months at a time. But Blake's poem does provide a good sense of proportion for me and, I hope, for ADS: outrage, balanced with wonder; finger-shaking, countered with embraces; things that I hate, as well as things that I love.

We'll see how it goes.

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