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Blake's visitor

Blake's visitor

He entered as darkness fell one evening
and standing by the window he commanded me
to paint him there and then, exactly as he was:
not as Hooke had seen him, under that all-traducing lens,
a cold unmoving alien, armed head to foot
in polished suit of sable armour, neatly jointed, beset
with multitudes of pins sharp as the quills of porcupines,
but in his nakedness, as he knew himself to be.

“Set down this!” he cried, as I painted, listening:
“Does my scaly head repel you? Do my bulging eyes,
my gristly spine, my loping walk, my ruddy skin,
my hungry flicking tongue fill your craven heart with fear?
Give me your reason for this trembling revulsion.
Do you think that I start back from my own image,
finding it monstrous? What do you believe I see
in the bottom of this deep cup, where I collect your blood?
I am neither the tiny speck that you hope to destroy
by crushing me; nor the dead specimen, magnified by
science, that for a century deluded eyes have seen."

"Behold me, in my magnificence, as I stand here naked
by the open window. Does my arched neck betoken
submission? Do my throbbing muscles spell obedience?
The street-lamps are stars, illumining my body; the trees
are curtains opening on my transfigured form. You think
I strut here, as on a stage, a performing villain; and yet
the spirits of bloodthirsty men are contained in me.
I am their essence, concentrated in the ghost of a flea.”

'The Ghost of a Flea' by William Blake. Tate Gallery.

Blake's visitor
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