William Blake

(28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827 / London)

Mock On, Mock On, Voltaire, Rousseau


Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau;
Mock on, mock on; 'tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.
And every sand becomes a gem
Reflected in the beams divine;
Blown back they blind the mocking eye,
But still in Israel's paths they shine.

The Atoms of Democritus
And Newton's Particles of Light
Are sands upon the Red Sea shore,
Where Israel's tents do shine so bright.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Zahava Fischer (2/25/2006 2:13:00 PM)

    Voltaire and Rousseau, the heroes of the Enlightenment mock the sacred. However, the poet sees also in the mundane the potential for sacralization. The atoms of Democritus and Newton’s particles of light are the most elevated grasp of reality that science offers us. (One can also add to these examples more modern ones.) These theories are the sand on the shores of the Red Sea where the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt occurred and because of this miracle the material also became sacred. In the second stanza Blake yet gives free rein to his naïve feelings of revenge: The wind that blows back the sand to those who throw it causes the mocking Eye to go blind. But it is possible to explain the line thus: the blindness of the mocking eye is the elimination of partial sight that creates the mockery. From here on there will be a comprehensive vision that will see how the mundane is part of the sacred because each particle of sand reflects the sacred beams Divine. It is surprising how much this poem expresses the spirit of the religious philosophy of R. Abraham Isaac Kook (1860-1935) and his disciples. One should add that in Hebrew, the word mundane or secular is a homonym with the word for sand. (Report) Reply

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