Thursday, June 20, 2013

William Blake Is Chuckling in his Grave

Who is Thomas Pitchford, you ask? He's a humble school librarian for whom I'm thankful.
BBC News had an article this morning online saying that a poem had been attributed to William Blake (famous, brilliant British poet who died in 1827 and was at least 100 years ahead of his time. Okay, 150), which Blake had never written. This perked up my English Teacherly Heart. Pitchford read the poem, looked online, found it repeatedly attributed to Blake, but didn't buy it. The poem's style didn't match Blake's style. Good for Mr. Pitchford, a man who can identify an artist by style alone. (That makes my Teacherly Heart swim!)
After research, since Pitchford is a librarian after all, he discovered the poem had been published in the U.S. in 1981 in this darling little book:
My own copy of Nancy Willard's A Visit to William Blake's Inn
It's a harmless children's book, designed to familiarize kids with the great poet. And here's Willard's poem, "Two Sunflowers Move Into the Yellow Room," on p. 28. Goodness, even the title doesn't sound like Blake!
Across the page is a picture of Mr. Blake himself, scribbling away. He looks askance at the two sunflowers accosting him.
Willard stated clearly at the beginning of her little tome that this children's book is full of magical poems written by her, describing an imaginary inn. Frankly, I think Blake would enjoy this book, were he still alive.
So ... how did the massive mistake occur? If you go to Google, and type in the poem's name, you'll be instantly led to sites like this one, or a poetry blog like this one,  or this education website. All assign the poem to Blake. How embarrassing! I wonder when they'll realize they've been stupid enough to simply copy a falsehood found on the internet? Who started the lie? I imagine it was unintentional. Some poor illiterate was looking at children's books with half his brain turned off, and mistook Nancy Willard's book for a book by the genius himself. Why? Because he clearly knew nothing about Blake himself. A Blake anthology would look like this:
It's several hundred pages, full of his wonderful art work, prose, and poetry.
By the by, Blake did write a poem about sunflowers. It's in his "Songs of Experience."
That's Blake.


  1. We too have 'A Visit To William Blake's Inn' on our shelf. I read it with Cory (26) in our younger school years. This is an interesting bit of mess. The internet is such a treasure.. when we are careful about the source of our information. But how do we be careful? I vow to keep my brain engaged during my research. :)

    Blessings, Debbie

  2. A good teacher friend recommended Willard's book to us long ago and we enjoyed it very much during our homeschooling years. One of my children memorized a poem from the book - but we knew it was Willard's poem...
    I will have to send my friend a link to your post!


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