He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise
– William Blake
Blake was an early Romantic poet. Studying him at Vassar had a tremendous impact on me, although I’m sure Professor Beth Darlington had a lot to do with that as well. There’s an excellent biography of him at Poets.org. He was quite a radical for his days — among other things, he taught his wife to read and write and had her work side by side with him in his engraving shop. (Of course, he also used to wake her up in the middle of the night to sit with him when he wrote, so I doubt I would have found him an ideal mate). He created and perfected a style of printing that allowed him to reproduce the delicate watercolors he used to illuminate his own poetry. Vassar’s special collections contains one of the original editions printed using this method. I don’t believe it survived him.
Tricycle’s Daily Dharma quoted this poem recently. It’s an excellent illustration of the Buddhist principle of nonattachment and also a reminder that spiritual principles repeat themselves over and over again across cultures, races, and places.