The romantic William Blake

“To see the world in a grain of sand

And a heaven in a wildflower

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

And eternity in an hour”

–William Blake

When I was studying journalism at uni I had to complete a subject called “Romanticism”. I’m still not sure why it was in the course; but it turned out to be the most memorable subject I completed. Somehow the Romantics had slipped by me. Suddenly I was in a world where the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings and the sound of snow falling on the ground meant as much as being thought of highly or receiving a large pay cheque for a scientific achievement.

Yes. This is what my heart yearned for.

This quote from Blake is one of my favourite snippets of poetry of all time. It encapsulates so many of my values while the writer in me just swoons with the perfection of each word that does indeed capture an entire world.

I am not a good poet. I know that. But how I admire the writers who struggle over every single word (sometimes for years) aching to condense so much thought and emotion into so few words. And the Romantics–those brave and sensitive souls of the late 18th century–are still my favourites. Romanticism embraced and held high the values of emotionality and protection and reverence for the natural world. (I knew I was born centuries too late.) They understood that you really could die of a broken heart or have your destiny changed by the colour of a sunset.

This quote actually sits on a poster on my wall in the kitchen and I read it and re-read it today while making a cup of tea. And a snippet of William was just what I needed on a very cold and windy day in Blackbutt–a step back in time and an escape to a peaceful inner world of beauty.


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