"Love seeketh not Itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care;
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell's despair."
So sang a little Clod of Clay,
Trodden with the cattle's feet:
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:
"Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to its delight;
Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven's despite."
William Blake (1757-1827)
The above truly unique and abundant in imagery love poem belongs to the sequence of poems Songs of Experience, which was written as a response to the Songs of Innocence.
In combination, these two groups of poems represent the world as it is envisioned by what Blake calls "two contrary states of the human soul." As it is implied by the name of these poems, Songs of Innocence refer to the naive, pure and guileless feelings we all have during our childhood and youth years, whereas the Songs of Experience constitute the "voice of logic", the experience gained through the hardships and ordeals during the mature years in one's life.
The voice of experience warns the innocent against the pain, injustice and cruelty of life and advises cautiousness.
What is unique in this poem is that the two contrary visions are presented evenly in one poem. The Clod - the innocent and altruistic love - and the Pebble - the selfish and self-absorbed emotion - are given precisely the same extent in the poem to give their message to the reader and let them judge for themselves. It is interesting to note the existence of two separate and distinct entities even from the title of the poem. The reader is about to read a poem about "the clod and the pebble" and not...