The Voice Of The Ancient Bard
By William Blake
Youth of delight, come hither
And see the opening morn,
Image of truth new born.
Doubt is fled, & clouds of reason,
Dark disputes and artful teasing.
Folly is an endless maze,
Tangled roots perplex her ways.
How many have fallen there!
They stumble all night over bones of the dead.
And feel they know not what but care,
And wish to lead others, when they should be led.
I recently attended an powerful Initiation Ritual in which I asked to be rid of was DOUBT. Naturally, as is so often the case, when I came home, I was drawn to a book I had recently ordered online. I turned to no page in particular and these words shot straight into my third eye like a red hot poker, for these words/images/thoughts capture my experience better than any musings I might share with you. What I would like to share are my interpretations of this passage.
“Youth of delight, come hither” I find I can assess a man’s development by how excited he gets about things and experiences. “Youth of Delight” captures the embryonic state of most, chasing the next pussy, the latest gadget, or the next event. “Come hither” boys, for I have something to share…
“And see the opening morn” This, for me, is Blake’s way of saying “Wake the Fuck Up!!!”. He is being very poetic about it. I tend to be more blunt.
“Image of truth new born.” Here, I believe, Blake is pointing his finger in the direction of “truth.” When one does get a sniff of truth, it truly is like a birth, and new day, a direction for one’s life which is at once both exhilarating and terrifying.
“Doubt is fled, & clouds of reason,” This one is for me a bit tougher to decipher. When one is cognizant of the clarity of truth, the absoluteness of it, then doubt is fled. The pathway is clear, and one begins the march, slashing and burning everything that gets in the way. Yet, clouds of reason do interfere. “Am I going insane?” “Am I the only one?” “Why doesn’t anyone else see what I see?” “The tribe was so warm and cozy.” The other interpretation here is that the clouds of reason are also fled. However, in my experience, “clouds of reason” is the battle ground. Only after tremendously challenging, painful and excruciating work, and complete ego decimation takes place, may one leave the battle ground. And in actuality, one doesn’t leave the battle ground, rather the battle ground just ceases to exist.
“Dark disputes and artful teasing.” Over the next few lines, Blake is, in my opinion, making a full front assault on Maya, the goddess of illusion. How can one realize the truth, without understanding his own dark side? Know thyself! Ah yes, and artful teasing. Just when you think you are on the path, you are once again off the path. Maya is a master, and her game is to make you think you are advancing, when in fact you have made a pit stop into illusion, vanity, or greed. This line, by including the word “artful,” also shows the respect for Maya that she deserves.
“Folly is an endless maze,” Or so it seems. How does one open the gateless gate? At some point, folly becomes a casualty of the process. When the hunger for the end of your suffering becomes greater than the pain of the suffering, one realizes the way out of the back door of the maze was in front of you the entire time.
“Tangled roots perplex her ways.” Here, Blake, again in my opinion, is now addressing ego, that pernicious little voice, that we just can’t seem to separate from our selves. This topic came up quite a bit during our days of rights. How is it that some little voice can make us all so miserable? “Hey you, you’re a piece of shit!” “Hey, are you listening to me, you aren’t making enough money.” “Hey you, you lazy ass couch potato, get to work!” It is not enough that we have Maya to contend with, but we also have to do some serious house cleaning to remove the debris of the multi tenacled ego (also a creation of Maya).
“How many have fallen there!” The answer: virtually everybody. I can just imagine Blake making this statement is disbelief and exasperation. I believe most don’t get any kind of clarity until they are looking death right in the eyes. And then they die, so their work remains incomplete. Some see the end but are too fearful to proceed. Some do proceed but end up in mental institutions, or addicted to anti depressants. Is it too much to bear? We all know damned well when we sell out to ourselves.
“They stumble all night over bones of the dead.” Here, I believe Blake is speaking about our fascination with our own stories, our fascination with, and our unwillingness to let go of, our past. How many times do we need to say our story before we realize it has nothing to do with the here and now!? The past is one of Maya’s main distraction devices. We all had bad things that happened to us… Get Over It!!! But on and on I go, parsing out the drivel of a lifetime. Aren’t I special?
“And feel they know not what but care,” And so, in the end, rather than march forward in the face of fear towards truth and away from all falsity, we fall back into comfort. As I witness life, it is almost as if men are playing dumb, acting like they don’t know what game they are playing. Rather than play the real game, they fall back into the warmth of the tribe, looking like they give a damn about capital punishment, relationship status, and career choices. I could see Maya smiling with glee. She must have had a really good day when she created the caring feelings that come with the tribe. Your heart is your ego, and that is a tough pill to swallow.
“And wish to lead others, when they should be led.” And still, Maya has yet another trick up her gold inlaid, laced sleeve. Once one gets even a whiff of clarity, the first impulse is to share it, and teach others. Here we have more delusion and distraction to feed an unexamined ego. The quickest way off the path, is to assume you have something to say. Ego quickly kicks in, and all progress is halted. Why is it so hard to live in the question? Temptations abound around us. Maya is sharpening her arrows. I have learned that only when I shut up will the universe speak to me.
William Blake, 1757-1827, life mask made in 1823
The Somnambulists by Joanna Kane
This is a brilliant poem. It is a powerful amalgam of words. Bravo William Blake!
Here, in this blog, I am sharing my observations. Please question everything. What, if anything, you may agree with, I especially invite you to look deeper. Life appears to me to have so many layers, each revealing just a bit more, until finally all becomes simple and silent. Is it simple and silent for you?
Honesty is the best policy. And Brutal Honesty is the only medicine for this path.