Auguries of Innocence

William Blake was an English poet who lived from 1757-1827. Although he was not appreciated during his lifetime, Blake is now considered to be one of Britain’s greatest poets, authors, and painters. His works were known for their mystical and philosophical quality.

Auguries of Innocence was most likely written in the early 1800s. The definition of an augury is a sign or omen, and the poem is largely a comparison between various evils, such as corruption and religion (he despised the Church of England, although he was religious himself), and innocence.

To see a world in a grain of sand,

And heaven in a wild flower

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

And eternity in an hour.

This poem is a description of multiple scenes that are seemingly disconnected. Most scholars agree that the couplets were written in no particular order, except for the first four. This first stanza is more flowery and serene than the rest, but it has always been one of my favorite stanzas of poetry for that reason. The lines stand out from the rest of the poem because there is no paradox or contradiction between innocence and evil. Instead, Blake is describing a means for looking at the world through various lenses: the infinite quality of nature (heaven in a wild flower), and the either infinite or finite quality of time. This stanza accentuates the delicate balances that are so important to understanding and appreciating this world.   

The rest of the poem can be found here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172906 

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