Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go
Joy & Woe are woven fine
A Clothing for the soul divine
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine
William Blake (1757-1827), Auguries of Innocence (c.1803).
Gill Ford sent me this:
An account of an experience I had many years ago and for which I had no words until I came across a piece by the poet, P J Kavanagh (1931-2015), in Bishop John V. Taylor’s splendid book, 'The Christlike God' (1992). The poet is describing an experience of reassurance after he had learnt, in hospital, that his wife was dying.
“I went out of the room for a moment and sat under a tree. It wasn’t a visual experience but it is best described in visual terms. It was as though streams of connections of light were going from cloud to cloud. It wasn’t an aural experience either but if you can imagine choirs of angels, the music of the spheres, they were present. And what was really surprising about it was that there seemed enormous vats of consolation. Everything was all right.... The extraordinary thing was that there was nothing in the tremendous, unbelievable demonstration of warmth, of warmth in creation that would remit the pain, no forgetting of the sort of tunnel one was going to walk down afterwards. The pain was included in the consolation. So it wasn’t any form of opting out or avoidance. Nevertheless it was like an enormous promise.”
For me the occasion was the death of my beloved puss, Mickey, when I was about 13. The loss, the devastation, made me feel that never again would I know happiness. But there came to me the sensation of fullness of love and goodness in the world which more than balanced the losses; and that everything was ‘all right’, just as the poet described years later. I heard and saw nothing but I did feel the most amazing warmth as if I had been wrapped in something wonderfully soft, warm and consoling. I tried to tell my sister about it and totally failed. When I came across the Blake poem, I felt he had something important in a nutshell. Years later my mother gave me a dark red mohair stole, and just looking at it reminds me of that long past experience.