Thursday, April 22, 2010

William Blake's Eternity

Blake’s short poem Eternity may have resulted from an encounter with a butterfly, but whether or not such an encounter took place, Blake, in his customary way, sought in this poem some insight into the nature of life. And also in his customary way, he seems to be considering life as it extends far beyond the years allotted each of us on earth.


He who binds to himself a joy

Does the winged life destroy;

But he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.

Blake implies what we already know as we grow older, that joy and beauty cannot be possessed and thus are never commodified except in the minds of shallow people or people who are certain that they are entitled to privileges denied to others. Keeping the beautiful butterfly can be done only by destroying its life, which is a path many people follow, unaware of the fact that by doing so they undo its beauty.

Eternity implies something quite opposite to the material world in which we must live our lives. That we have glimpses of beauty in nature makes us all the more aware that Eternity, like beauty, is immaterial, and thus eternal. Blake asks us to live in “Eternity’s sunrise” with a sense of reassurance that somehow we will “see” that sunrise, that metaphoric beginning of something, like joy and beauty, that has no beginning and no end.


Milton Vazquez said...

Was introduced to this poem while vacationing in the south side of Puerto Rico by two retired professors of english literature from colleges in New England. The fond experience of meeting these two male human beings has made me understand and enjoy life for what it is. Your analysis of what WM Blake tries to convey is right on cue. (My wife and I met these two travelers in 1985).

Thank you. Milton Vazquez

Xavier Greyling said...

For me, this poem was a gift from a lady before departing to foreign soil thousands and thousands of miles away, was the acknowledgment of the bond (yes, call it 'Love') and the risks, trials and possible death that Love will suffer if she and I did NOT go our separate ways. However, we had 3 weeks and this poem was the inspiration to literally act carpe diem! And that was 20years ago...memories that will never be effaced from memory...which will be cherished with sincere fondness...probably until by dying bed...and possibly beyond...

Michael Jander said...

Tough break Xavier! But as you say, by acting selflessly you ensured that the bond, though physically enjoyed for a mere 3 weeks, has been preserved for 20 years now and you in your later years can stand at the beginning of eternity (it's sunrise), comforted by the knowledge that the bond lies ahead of you too. This is a wonderfully reassuring thought in this transient life of ours! Thank you for sharing such a real, personal experience to enable us to gain greater insight into and enhance the relevance of this short but powerful poem.

sarah lee said...

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. See the link below for more info.