Category Archives: William Blake

“He would do good to another”

 

To Generalize is to be an Idiot. To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit — General Knowledges are those Knowledges that Idiots possess.

— William Blake, Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Discourses

 

AND many conversèd on these things as they labour’d at the furrow, Saying: ‘It is better to prevent misery than to release from misery; It is better to prevent error than to forgive the criminal. Labour well the Minute Particulars: attend to the Little Ones; And those who are in misery cannot remain so long, If we do but our duty: labour well the teeming Earth.… He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars. General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer; For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars, And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power: The Infinite alone resides in Definite and Determinate Identity. Establishment of Truth depends on destruction of Falsehood continually, On Circumcision, not on Virginity, O Reasoners of Albion!

— William Blake, “Jerusalem”

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2022

I would be very pleased were it said of me

 

“He [William Blake] was a man without a mask; his aim was single; his path straight-forwards  and his wants few … His voice and manner were quiet, yet ALL AWAKE WiTH INTELLECT. … He was gentle and affectionate, loving to be with little children, and to talk about them.”

Samuel Palmer

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

in a semi-inebriated state

from my favorite pub, NYC, March 19, 2022

with a nod to my mentor (the man who said that the life of the mind is “like breathing”) Dr. Ralph Colp Jr.

“in minute particulars”

 

He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars.

— William Blake, Jerusalem

 

Some train of thought today got me to recall a memory that I haven’t recalled for a long time.

I was thinking about people who are self-righteous about rectifying what they see as wrongs, in general.

Amway, the memory is as follows. I will probably be seen as trying to portray myself in a positive light, as a saintly figure. That’s not my wish or intent. It’s just that a certain action I recall seemed relevant and brought to mind the quote from Blake.

And, I do feel that I have a large capacity for empathy, which I undoubtedly got from my mother And that, along with writers such as Blake, the teachings of Christ in the Bible, mostly gotten by me in Sunday school, had a major influence on what I perceive as right or desirable when I am acting at my best.

It was a very cold winter night during the period when I was newly married. My wife and I were living on a first floor apartment on the East Side. I was walking home from the 86th Street subway station. It was a ten or fifteen minute walk to our apartment.

I passed a sleeping man on the sidewalk of a side street. He was insufficiently protected against the cold. No blanket. I don’t recall what he was wearing.

I went home. My wife and I had a blanket which I valued highly. It was old. My wife had had it for I know not how long. An old, thick brown blanket. Woolen. It always kept us warm.

I hated to part with it, but I thought to myself, that homeless man needs it. Now. I took the blanket back to the spot where he was sleeping, draped it over him, and left. He didn’t stir.

Something else that may have stirred this memory. Late tonight, I wrapped a blanket around my wife, who was sleeping on the couch. It makes me feel good to do this for her.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 16, 2022

“What have you done for others?”

 

“You probably know that I am [doing volunteer work]. _______ has done numerous, exceedingly generous activities to help the disadvantaged. Can you name one thing you have ACTIVELY done to help the needy? …What have your contributions to society been? … What have YOU done for others?”

— email to me from a relative, July 2018

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And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. ….

— Matthew 5-6 (The Sermon on the Mount)

 

He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars.

— William Blake, Jerusalem

 

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The full Blake passage reads:

Labour well the Minute Particulars: attend to the Little Ones;
And those who are in misery cannot remain so long,
If we do but our duty: labour well the teeming Earth.…
He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars.
General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer;
For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars,
And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power:
The Infinite alone resides in Definite and Determinate Identity.

T. S. Eliot (who, unaccountably, found fault with this passage) wrote that “Blake was endowed with a capacity for considerable understanding of human nature.” (T. S. Eliot, “Blake”; in The Sacred Wood: Essays On Poetry And Criticism). So true. And, in my opinion, Blake never said anything more true than He who would do good to another must do it in minute particulars. These words are seared into my consciousness, and they greatly influenced my thinking.

 

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I do not have a preference for organized charities (or charity). Though I do not, and one should not, find fault with them a priori, or with those who volunteer or donate. They may be supported for reasons, partly, of self-interest, or to make someone look good, say, in their public profile or on a resume or college application. Note that I said they “may be.”

I prefer to do good in minute particulars. In little ways. I am always trying to. In my immediate environment. Where I live. Among friends and friends of friends or relatives. And, mostly, for people whom I encounter anonymously in the City.

There is no point in my giving particulars — it would not be true to the spirit of what is said above.

And, by the way, I fully agree with what Blake wrote – the thrust of the entire passage quoted above — developing his idea of particular versus general good more fully: “General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer; … / And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power: / The Infinite alone resides in Definite and Determinate Identity.”

Much of what is done by social engineers and reformers – supposedly for amelioration of conditions of the oppressed – actually is done with the most mean spirited intentions one can conceive of, and actually does harm to individuals, as I have shown in many of my posts.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   November 2019

the particular matters; quotes from famous authors

 

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

— William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”

 

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

— William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

 

“To Generalize is to be an Idiot. To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit — General Knowledges are those Knowledges that Idiots possess.”

— William Blake, Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Discourses

 

“AND many conversèd on these things as they labour’d at the furrow, Saying: ‘It is better to prevent misery than to release from misery; It is better to prevent error than to forgive the criminal. Labour well the Minute Particulars: attend to the Little Ones; And those who are in misery cannot remain so long, If we do but our duty: labour well the teeming Earth.… He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars. General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer; For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars, And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power: The Infinite alone resides in Definite and Determinate Identity. Establishment of Truth depends on destruction of Falsehood continually, On Circumcision, not on Virginity, O Reasoners of Albion!”

— William Blake, “Jerusalem”

 

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”Dear Hugo, you must write to me often as you can, & not delay it, your letters are very dear to me. Did you see my newspaper letter in N Y Times of Sunday Oct 4? About my dear comrade Bloom, is he still out in Pleasant Valley? Does he meet you often? Do you & the fellows meet at Gray’s or any where? O Hugo, I wish I could hear with you the current opera – I saw Devereux in the N Y papers of Monday announced for that night, & I knew in all probability you would be there – tell me how it goes – only don’t run away with that theme & occupy too much of your letter with it – but tell me mainly about all my dear friends, & every little personal item, & what you all do, & say &c.”

— Walt Whitman, letter to Hugo Fritsch, dated Washington, DC, October 8, 1863; from Selected Letters of Walt Whitman

 

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“[I]n these lives of ours, tender little acts do more to bind hearts together than great deeds or heroic words. …”

— Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience

 

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“… I particularly liked your manner of explanation when you lowered your voice and spoke quietly of the elements that interest us both, the humane particulars of realization and communication.”

— William Carlos Williams, letter to Kenneth Burke, November 10, 1945

 

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“The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnified world in itself.”

— Henry Miller, Plexus (New York: Grove Press, 1965, pg. 53)

 

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“In the ordinary is the extraordinary. In the particular is the universal.”

— Frank Delaney (1942–2017), Irish novelist, journalist and broadcaster; blog post re James Joyce’s Ulysses

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   December 2015; updated June 2018

Benjamin Britten, “Elegy”

 

 

The Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31, is a song cycle written in 1943 by English composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) for tenor accompanied by a solo horn and a small string orchestra. Composed during World War II, it is a setting of six poems by British poets.

It is comprised of eight movements, including “Elegy”, set to the poem “The Sick Rose” by William Blake.

— Roger W. Smith

   May 2017

 

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The Sick Rose

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

The Ecchoing Green

 

Central Park, April 10, 2017

photo by Roger W. Smith

 

Central Park 6-02 p.m. 4-10-2017

 

The sun does arise,
And make happy the skies.
The merry bells ring
To welcome the Spring.
The sky-lark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around,
To the bells’ cheerful sound.
While our sports shall be seen
On the Ecchoing Green.

— William Blake, “The Ecchoing Green”

William Blake, “A Poison Tree”

 

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

 

— William Blake, “A Poison Tree”; from Blake’s Songs of Experience

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  May 2016