William and Catherine

blake and catherine 2

From an account of visiting Blake’s grave in the Sunday New York Times:

‘Death has mellowed him,’’ my friend David Winner told me. He too once had a comforting encounter with Blake, which he recounts in his book ‘‘Those Feet: A Sensual History of English Soccer.’’ (The title is from the hymn ‘‘Jerusalem,’’ whose words come from Blake’s preface to his epic poem ‘‘Milton.’’) A day after David decided on that name, he boarded a random London bus on a whim, disembarking on ‘‘a dull street full of noisy traffic and boring buildings.’’ He spotted what he thought was a park in the distance. ‘‘As I walked down the central path, the sound of traffic fell away,’’ David writes. ‘‘I became aware of birdsong and greenery and trees covered with blossom.’’ He continues: ‘‘The path led into a more open space, with a grassy field. I slowed. I stopped. I looked down and found that I was standing beside the grave of William Blake.’’

And then, David told me, ‘‘it was as if he’d laid his hand gently on my shoulder. I’ve never felt anything like it.’’

One of the first things I noticed about Blake’s grave is that it isn’t exactly Blake’s grave. The inscription on the stone tells us that he and his wife, Catherine, are buried nearby. He was laid to rest in a cheap, common plot: Three people were already buried under him, and in time four more would lie above. Bunhill is said to be a corruption of ‘‘bone hill’’; it is essentially a potter’s field formed as much by ideology as poverty, the final home of religious Nonconformists and other upstarts.

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