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The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

William Blake and the pedants: a rant.

It's only quite recently that anyone's discovered exactly where William Blake, the poet and painter, is buried.

There's been a gravestone in the general vicinity for some time, but research and fund-raising by the Blake Society has now led to a new gravestone's being commissioned to cover the actual grave in Bunhill Fields, London.

This is the old stone:

File:Finsbury bunhill blake 1.jpg

But the people who were paying for the new gravestone wanted something fancier. Something more poetic. Something that's more of a tribute to Blake's genius.

A suitable text was decided upon without a public quarrel, but on the issue of punctuation...

The thing is, there are two versions of the agreed text in existence. There's the one in his original private notebook, and the one published.

The published version goes:

I give you the end of a golden string;
Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you in at Heaven's gate,
Built in Jerusalem's wall....

The version in the private notebook has no punctuation at all, not even (gasp horror!) the possessive apostrophes.

Which version won? 

It's the punctuationless one. 

I think this is a shame, and this isn't because punctuation is inherently virtuous, but because Blake's private notebook should be, well, private.

Good grief. I hope no one goes and puts a scribbling from one of my notebooks on my gravestone. 

For one thing, it'll probably say: cucumber, soya milk, musli...

Word To Use Today: private. This word comes from the Latin privatus, withdrawn from public life, from privare, to bereave or deprive, from privus, single or individual.

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