Music: Sheena Phillips, Words: William Blake
Performance time approx: 2m 30s
Price code: B
During Blake’s lifetime there were annual parades on Holy Thursday of poor children from London’s charity schools. His poem was a protest at the existence of dire poverty in the ‘rich and fruitful land’ of Britain and also sounded a satirical note against the annual display of charity.
Both the title and the words resonated strongly for me in the run-up to Easter 1999, when thousands of families fled the violence in Kosovo in terror and the world looked on in anguish as a beautiful country became war-torn.
A recording by Rudsambee company of singers is available on their album bottled at source (RUBEECD003).
Is this a holy thing to see,
In a rich and fruitful land,
Babes reduced to misery,
Fed with cold and usurous hand?
Is that trembling cry a song?
Can it be a song of joy?
And so many children poor?
It is a land of poverty!
And their sun does never shine.
And their fields are bleak and bare.
And their ways are fill'd with thorns.
It is eternal winter there.
For where-e'er the sun does shine,
And where-e'er the rain does fall:
Babes can never hunger there, ['Babe' in the original]
Nor poverty the mind appall.