In honour of American Independence Day, here is one of my favourite William Blake passages, from America: A Prophecy.
The Guardian Prince of Albion burns in his nightly tent:
Sullen fires across the Atlantic glow to America’s shore,
Piercing the souls of warlike men who rise in silent night.
Washington, Franklin, Paine, and Warren, Gates, Hancock, and Green
Meet on the coast glowing with blood from Albion’s fiery Prince.
What I love about these lines, quite apart from the language itself, is the way Blake turns the Revolutionary War into a mystical, epic event – like something from Norse legend – with “Washington, Franklin, Paine, and Warren, Gates, Hancock, and Green” presented as legendary heroes, or even mythical archetypes, raised up in opposition to “Albion’s fiery Prince”.
Small wonder that, as Blake puts it a few lines further down (in a line which also functions as a caption for the illustration to this page of his poem; see here for the preceding page with the lines quoted above):
The King of England looking westward trembles at the vision.
As well he might!