Tag Archives: drinking

“The Little Vagabond” by William Blake

LittleVagabond

Dear Mother, dear Mother, the Church is cold;
But the Alehouse is healthy, & pleasant, and warm.
Besides, I can tell where I am use’d well;
Such usage in heaven will never do well.

But, if at the Church they would give us some Ale,
And a pleasant fire our souls to regale,
We’d sing and we’d pray all the livelong day,
Nor ever once wish from the Church to stray.

Then the Parson might preach, and drink, & sing,
And we’d be as happy as birds in the spring;
And modest dame Lurch, who is always at church,
Would not have bandy children, nor fasting, nor birch.

And God, like a father, rejoicing to see
His children as pleasant and happy as He,
Would have no more quarrel with the Devil or the Barrel,
But kiss him, & give him both drink and apparel.

On the surface, this seems like a poem that criticizes the Church for its doctrine of austerity. The speaker asserts that if the Church would be more festive that it would attract more followers. While this is a perfectly legitimate interpretation, I see other symbolism buried within the verse.

Firstly, I see this as a pagan song. The speaker is addressing the Mother, with a capital M. It is a sign of reverence. We also have images of ale and bonfires, which are common in pagan rituals. It is also worth noting that the Christian god is not referred to as the Father, but instead he is “like a father.”

The other thing that struck me was the illustration. At the top, God is huddled with a naked male figure. In the last two lines of the poem, we have an image of God reconciling with the devil and offering him “both drink and apparel.” I believe that this image atop the illustration is God and Lucifer together, especially since the naked figure’s skin is tinted red. Also worth noting is the position of the two figures; it is almost as if they are forming a yin/yang symbol. One could say that the two are not in conflict, but are opposite energies or archetypes that complement each other, and when brought together create a whole.

This universal symbol of God and Lucifer complementing each other then becomes a symbol for humanity. In order to reach spiritual completeness, we must find a way to balance our positive and negative energies. Both are essential and neither should be denied or excluded. It is only when we find our balance between dark and light, male and female, positive and negative, conscious and subconscious, that we will become fully realized beings.

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“Why Do I Drink?” by Jim Morrison

WildernessMorrisonSo this is my 150th blog post. Kind of a milestone, don’t you think? I struggled with what to write about. I wanted to choose something significant, therefore I gave it considerable thought before making my decision, which was to pick a poem from a book of obscure writings by Jim Morrison of The Doors. My reason for this is that, looking back, I realize that rock and roll was what really got me interested in poetry. I have always loved to read, but it was rock lyrics that gave me an appreciation of the subtleties of language found in poetry.

I searched my sagging bookshelves until I found Wilderness Volume 1: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison. I skimmed through the pages looking for the right poem and I settled on the following (I am including the poem because it is short and chances are most people do not have a copy of the book).

Why do I drink?
So that I can write poetry.

Sometimes when it’s all spun out
and all that is ugly recedes
into a deep sleep
There is an awakening
and all that remains is true.
As the body is ravaged
the spirit grows stronger.

Forgive me Father for I know
what I do.
I want to hear the last Poem
of the last Poet.

Like many poets and artists, Jim searched for inspiration and turned to drugs and alcohol as his muse. The irony is that while mood-altering substances can be a source of artistic inspiration, they ultimately rob you of your ability to create and lead you down the path of insanity and ultimately death, which sadly was the case with Jim.

I found the lines at the end of the second stanza to be quite interesting: “As the body is ravaged/the spirit grows stronger.” I see this as a reference to practices like fasting, flagellation, and other forms of self-induced physical suffering intended to create an altered state of consciousness. But just like drugs, these forms of inspiration eventually take their toll on a person, often resulting in the loss of that which they were seeking to gain. I read somewhere that these practices were only meant to give a person a glimpse of what can be attained through spiritual practices, but should not be the path which one should follow.

It is sad that Jim Morrison never learned that there are many ways to be inspired other than drinking. If he did, he might still be here, writing poems and creating music. Instead, he heard his “last Poem” at the moment of his dying and was never able to share it with others.

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