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And his legs carried it like a long fork

Blake manuscript - Notebook - page 022

Edited text: [1]Edit


* * *

…AND his legs carried it like a long fork,
Reached all the way from Chichester to York,
From York all across Scotland to the sea;
This was a Man of Men, as seems to me.
5 Not only in his Mouth his own Soul lay,
But my Soul also would he bear away.
Like as a Pedlar bears his weary Pack,
So Stewhard's Soul he buckled to his back.
But once, alas ! committing a mistake,
10 He bore the wretched Soul of William Blake
That he might turn it into eggs of gold;
But neither back nor mouth those eggs could hold.
His under jaw drop'd as those eggs he laid,
And Stewhard's eggs are addled and decay'd.
15 The Examiner, whose very name is Hunt,
Call'd Death a Madman, trembling for the affront;
Like trembling Hare sits on his weakly paper
On which he used to dance and sport and caper.
Yorkshire Jack Hemp and Quibble, blushing daw,
20 Clap'd Death into the corner of their jaw,
And Felpham Billy rode out every morn,
Horseback with Death, over the fields of corn;
Who with iron hand cuff'd, in the afternoon,
The ears of Billy's Lawyer and Dragoon.
25 And Cur my lawyer, and Daddy, Jack Hemp's parson,
Both went to law with Death to keep our ears on.
For how to starve Death we had laid a plot
Against his price but Death was in the pot.
He made them pay his price, alackaday!
30 He knew both Law and Gospel better than they.
O that I ne'er had seen that William Blake,
Or could from Death Assassinette wake!
We thought alas, that such a thought could be!
That Blake would etch for him and draw for me.
35 For 'twas a kind of bargain Screwmuch made
That Blake's designs should be by us display'd,
Because he makes designs so very cheap.
Then Screwmuch at Blake's Soul took a long leap.
'Twas not a Mouse. 'Twas Death in a disguise.
40 And I, alas ! live to weep out my eyes.
And Death sits laughing on their Monuments
On which he's written “Received the Contents”
But I have writ so sorrowful my thought is
His epitaph; for my tears are aqua fortis.
45 Come, Artists, knock your head against this stone,
For sorrow that our friend Bob Screwmuch's gone
And now the Muses upon me smile and laugh
I'll also write my own dear epitaph,
And I'll be buried near a dyke
50 That my friends may weep as much as they like:
'Here lies Stewhard the Friend of all [Mankind;
He has not left one enemy behind.]'

after 1809

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The original text:[2]Edit


* * *

And his legs carried it like a long fork
Reachd all the way from Chichester to York
From York all across Scotland to the Sea
This was a Man of Men as seems to me
5 Not only in his Mouth his own Soul lay
But my Soul also would he bear away
Like as a Pedlar bears his weary Pack
So Stewhards Soul he buckld to his Back
But once alas committing a Mistake
10 He bore the wr[et]ched Soul of William Blake
That he might turn it into Eggs of Gold
But neither Back nor mouth those Eggs could hold
His underjaw dropd as those Eggs he laid
And Stewhards Eggs are addled & decayd
15 The Examiner whose very name is Hunt
Calld Death a Madman trembling for the affront
Like trembling Hare sits on his weakly paper
On which he usd to dance & sport & caper
Yorkshire Jack Hemp & gentle blushing Daw
20 Clapd Death into the corner of their jaw
And Felpham Billy rode out every morn
Horseback with Death over the fields of corn
Who with iron hand cuffd in the afternoon
The Ears of Billys Lawyer & Dragoon
25 And Cur my Lawyer & Dady Jack Hemps Parson
Both went to Law with Death to keep our Ears on
For how to starve Death we had laid a plot
Against his Price but Death was in the Pot
He made them pay his Price alack a day
30 He knew both Law & Gospel better than they
O that I neer ha[d] seen that William Blake
Or could from death Assassinetti wake
We thought Alas that such a thought should be
That Blake would Etch for him & draw for me
35 For twas a kind of Bargain Screwmuch made
That Blakes Designs should be by us displayed
Because he makes designs so very cheap
Then Screwmuch at Blakes soul took a long leap
Twas not a Mouse twas Death in a disguise
40 And I alas live to weep out mine Eyes
And Death sits laughing on their Monuments
On which hes written Recievd the Contents
But I have writ so sorrowful my thought is
His Epitaph for my tears are aqua fortis
45 Come Artists knock your heads against This stone
For Sorrow that our friend Bob Screwmuchs gone
And now the Men upon me smile & Laugh
Ill also write my own dear Epitaph
And Ill be buried near a Dike
50 That my friends may weep as much as they like
Here lies Stewhard the Friend of All &c

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NotesEdit

Written on page 22 in the Notebook, probably between 1809 and 1812.

  1. Sampson, J. The poetical works of William Blake; a new and verbatim text from the manuscript engraved and letterpress originals (1905) OUP
  2. "The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake", ed. by David V. Erdman, Anchor Books, 1988, p. 503.
 

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.