The Poetry of Grace Contemplative Experience IV: Part 4

In today’s last session we turned first to exploring the ways in which William Blake explores the conditions that create GRACE. In his Songs of Innocence and Experience he has two songs that are about Nurses. In Nurse’s Song in Songs of Innocence he presents  the Nurse in a state in which  “her heart is at rest within [her] my breast”. This state or condition of her Being, has extraordinary consequences on the children under her care and on the world around her.

Nurse 1

This situation is dramatically contrasted with the the second “Nurses Song” from the Songs of Experience  in which the Nurse’s state is now not “at rest… within my breast”, but is described as one in which her “face turns green and pale” as “The days of [her] my youth rise fresh in [her] my mind”. The consequences of this state are equally dramatic!

Nurse 2

The discussion we had on these two companion poems was wonderfully insightful and alive. Thank you all who took part!

Listen here:

After our discussion on William Blake and the ways in which he dramatizes the means for opening, or closing to Grace, we turned back to Shakespeare, in particular the scene in The Merchant of Venice in which Lorenzo speaks with his beloved Jessica and illuminates for her what stands in the way of being conscious of the divinity that lies in each one of us. Here are the lines we discussed and you can listen to the discussion and the Globe Theatre dramatisation of this episode in the audio link above (it comes immediately after the discussion on William Blake:

Lorenzo to Jessica The Merchant of Venice 5.1 53ff. (1139)


  • Lorenzo.Sweet soul, let’s in, and there expect their coming.
    And yet no matter: why should we go in?
    My friend Stephano, signify, I pray you,
    Within the house, your mistress is at hand; 2505
    And bring your music forth into the air.
    [Exit Stephano]
    How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
    Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
    Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night 2510
    Become the touches of sweet harmony.
    Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
    Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
    There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
    But in his motion like an angel sings, 2515
    Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
    Such harmony is in immortal souls;
    But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
    Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
  • [Enter Musicians]2520
    Come, ho! and wake Diana with a hymn!
    With sweetest touches pierce your mistress’ ear,
    And draw her home with music.


  • Jessica.I am never merry when I hear sweet music.2525
  • Lorenzo.The reason is, your spirits are attentive:
    For do but note a wild and wanton herd,
    Or race of youthful and unhandled colts,
    Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud,
    Which is the hot condition of their blood; 2530
    If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,
    Or any air of music touch their ears,
    You shall perceive them make a mutual stand,
    Their savage eyes turn’d to a modest gaze
    By the sweet power of music: therefore the poet 2535
    Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones and floods;
    Since nought so stockish, hard and full of rage,
    But music for the time doth change his nature.
    The man that hath no music in himself,
    Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, 2540
    Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
    The motions of his spirit are dull as night
    And his affections dark as Erebus:
    Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.



Here, in conclusion are two more poetry offerings from Peter Solway and Stephen Mason

Here is Peter’s Poem with his reflections on Les Murray, his aboriginal connections and his feelings for his father:

Hows That!

Metaphor correct bout big Les

blowing into town,

mighty word-smith

dusting tall glass, figs and cars in park

harbour boats and bridge with imported rust


Clever as a black fella

remembering stories

from solid, ground -dwelling grandma;

but full encyclopedic wind

all flags blowing, ancestors wailing

thieving farmers income


pushing blind commuters round

set drunk bins street loose

pamphlets to race plastic skirts,

sky to howl lost odds

Rosehill to Randwick and beyond


Over the gap, into the convict sea

murky with a sad farmer’s history,

elder children never to visit.

Lone cricket at the scg

beer the slur of drought,

dog with mange so black

umpire white trash!


Bully-boy wind, plane tossed from Mascot

up the scarred, sacred coast-line,

tin flapping back at the farm

trees pleading

Les come on home

leave glaucoma high-rise town behind


Soiled in it’s caul of commerce, dirty windows

aborted frowns (through the glass dark…)

Corinthians looking down

chapter and verse of squared sport.

Plane almost to Macquarie port;

prepared to land, seat-belt off

wheels dropped ,air-warm


where last stanzas are redeemed

the bunyahs weep, the wild gums pine;

young son’s note to remind


Dear dad please hurry home

forget forecasts


chook’s distressed, roof blown off,

real dog down, kennel gone!


Here also is Stephen Mason’s poem based on his experience of Sydney’s City Scape; Click on this link to read Stephen’s poem:

Stephen Mason


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