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Our Blakean Year

William Blake

The Winter Solstice brings us the day with most darkness and the least amount of light. As that moment passes, the days begin to grow longer again. There are many markers for the end of the year, but this one seems the most significant to me. Sometimes called midwinter, it’s the moment when Autumn and Winter touch and the momentum of the seasons begins to change. We think of Spring as the time of new beginnings, but Winter is when the light begins to return.

This last trip around the Sun was a rough one. While the light has been growing since November 4, 2008, we’re only starting to feel the warmth. Surviving through the tough times requires an excess of spirit— where the material world withdraws, the imagination begins to fill in the gaps.

What I learned from William Blake is, don’t give up. And don’t expect anything.

– Patti Smith

In thinking about a way to sum up the past year, Patti Smith’s song My Blakean Year kept returning to my thoughts. Smith takes heart in the story of William Blake’s perseverance and faith in the face of utter rejection during his lifetime.

While Smith has learned to play the guitar, she has a limited range. The song My Blakean Year seems to be a sort of talisman, a point of connection for so many threads of her life.

The song gives her a solid foundation on which to stand and perform. It’s the thing that makes rock and roll portable for her. She can scale her performance to a small gathering, a large stadium, or a network television audience.

Having survived her own Blakean year, the song serves as a reminder to honor the past, but engage with the present.

This last year was Blakean for so many around the world. Times are rough, and while we can see the light beginning to grow, we know there are still the tough Winter months ahead. The song serves as a reminder to keep the faith, don’t give up, and don’t expect anything.

my blakean year

In my Blakean year
I was so disposed
Toward a mission yet unclear
Advancing pole by pole
Fortune breathed into my ear
Mouthed a simple ode
One road is paved in gold
One road is just a road

In my Blakean year
Such a woeful schism
The pain of our existence
Was not as I envisioned
Boots that trudged from track to track
Worn down to the sole
One road is paved in gold
One road is just a road

Boots that tread from track to track
Worn down to the sole
One road is paved in gold
One road is just a road

In my Blakean year
Temptation but a hiss
Just a shallow spear
Robed in cowardice

Brace yourself for bitter flack
For a life sublime
A labyrinth of riches
Never shall unwind
The threads that bind the pilgrim’s sack
Are stitched into the Blakean back
So throw off your stupid cloak
Embrace all that you fear
For joy will conquer all despair
In my Blakean year

Written by Patti Smith
© 2004 Druse Music (ASCAP)

What I learned from William Blake is, don’t give up. And don’t expect anything.

Comments

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