William Blake loved his small garden in London. In fact, he loved it so much, that when one of his friends visited, he found Blake and Blake’s wife Catherine out in the garden, reciting poetry to each other–buck naked. They were reciting Paradise Lost, with Blake as Adam and Catherine as Eve. They must have been method actors as well.
At any rate, here’s a twelve line version of Paradise Lost.
The Garden of Love
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And Thou shalt not. writ over the door;
So I turn’d to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be:
And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars, my joys & desires.
Blake is also considered by many to be the best English graphic artist, and I would name him as the GOAT English poet. His circle of London radicals included his close friend Thomas Paine, who was also a friend of Mr. Jefferson, and Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote the revolutionary Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Blake did the illustrations for her earlier book of children’s stories.
This poem is what Russian Formalist critics called condensed language, as it can be unfolded almost forever. And it may well be.