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Ah! Sun-flower(1794)

William Blake

Ah! Sun-flower weary of time,
MeterAh! Sun-flower weary of time,

Note on line 1: (Sigh.) “Time” is indeed the problem in this tough Blakean Song of Experience. First it’s the Sun-flower’s all-too-human problem. A showy heliotrope, it performs daily that insatiably deferred gratification which forms the poem’s deep subject – and the target of its bitter irony since, by the final line, in the heaven for which the Sun-flower yearns there’s nothing to do but take it from the top and resume the endless cycle of postponement. Moreover, “time” becomes a problem for any 4B4V reader who seeks to “count the steps” of scansion. An addictive anapestic trimeter prevails except, when lines 3, 5, and 6 envision the objects of desire (clime, Youth, Virgin), the whirligig all but breaks down. 4B4V proposes to rescue the trimeter by fetching an exotic foot from classical prosody, the trisyllabic amphimacer (stress-slack-stress), which this note therefore gives you in advance. The resulting counterpoint in these lines of 4 beats against 3 may prompt reflection on how seductively procrastination can convert habitual self-denial into perverse self-indulgence.

Who countest the steps of the Sun:
MeterWho countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
MeterSeeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done;
MeterWhere the traveller’s journey is done;

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
MeterWhere the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow,
MeterAnd the pale Virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves and aspire,
MeterArise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.
MeterWhere my Sun-flower wishes to go.

Rhyme
Show Stress    Foot division    Syncopation