The Romantics, Blake, and Water

Sabrina's Silvery Flood

“Sabrina’s Silvery Flood,” from Robert John Thornton’s “The Pastorals of Virgil.” William Blake, 1821.

In preparing a lecture on the possible relationship between the Romantic Movement and the eventual embrace of outdoor recreation (other than field sports) in the United States, I found myself thinking of William Blake. Blake is certainly not one of the optimistic romantics, such as transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, who might normally come to mind when thinking about outdoor recreation. Still, Blake’s poetry and visual art are stunning. In his song “Memory, hither come,” composed when he was just a boy, Blake captures the sense of mystery that all moving water embodies with just a few words.

“Memory, hither come” (1783)

Memory, hither come,
And tune your merry notes;
And, while upon the wind
Your music floats,

I’ll pore upon the stream
Where sighing lovers dream,
And fish for fancies as they pass
Within the watery glass.

I’ll drink of the clear stream,
And hear the linnet’s song;
And there I’ll lie and dream
The day along:

And, when night comes, I’ll go
To places fit for woe,
Walking along the darken’d valley
With silent Melancholy.

4 Responses to “The Romantics, Blake, and Water”

  1. rivertoprambles Says:

    I really like this lesser-known piece. Puts me in mind of “fishing for fancies” on a chalk stream in England (or maybe on Letort). Thanks for sharing!


    • Kenov Says:

      Indeed. It is always sort of mind-boggling to fish around Carlisle and to think about how long people have been putting flies in those waters. Schullery notes that cites someone (probably one of many) fly fishing there as early as the late 1700’s.


  2. trutta99 Says:

    I didnt know this piece. Thanks for posting it!


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