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The Clod and the Pebble by William Blake

Updated: Oct 7, 2021


The Clod and the Pebble was written by William Blake. It was first published in Songs of Innocence and Experience collection in 1794. This three stanza poem exemplified a contrary view of love as unselfish (selflessness) as well selfish. Here the poem visions the two insignificant parts of the greater landscape, the clod (clay) which is personified as innocence and the pebble (stone) which is personified as experience. The poem ends by leaving it up to the readers on deciding about true nature of love of human soul without explicit which is better. This perspective of pebble as selfish love was used as the epigraph in 1921 novel The Narrow House written by Evelyn Scott. The rhyme scheme of this poem is ABAB CDED AFAF


Love seeketh not itself to please,

Nor for itself hath any care,

But for another gives its ease,

And builds a Heaven in Hell's despair."

So sung a little Clod of Clay

Trodden with the cattle's feet,

But a Pebble of the brook

Warbled out these metres meet:

"Love seeketh only self to please,

To bind another to its delight,

Joys in another's loss of ease,

And builds a Hell in Heaven's despite.

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With the description of stream, cow, clay and so on, this poem has been set in a rural area surrounded with nature. The poem starts with the song of the lump of earth presents there which often distorts by heavy footstep of passing cow’s overhead. As Clod represents innocence, it includes the factor of love as philanthropic and selfless which requires nothing. It does not care about itself and make merry for selfish motive. It is a symbol of sacrifice as it cedes its own comfort for others. Love is a kind of thing which designs its heaven even within the misery of hell or in the midst of miserable situation.

The pebble in nearby river comes out with contradictory view of love as egocentric and selfish. In contrary to clod, it says love always makes itself delight and makes other counting on it. Even in discomfort, it takes pleasure as it is self-seeking and creates hell even in midst of heaven.

Love is its own reward for clod and for the pebble, it is pure self-centered. Both have its own point with suitable expressions but as innocence speaks “love is pure and self-sacrifice”, as experience speaks "love is egotistical". A clod represents the quality of love as it sacrifices itself and doesn’t hurt cow while it’s walking over. But pebbles potentially controls the speed of flow. Love differs with perspective but one always needs feel of it either by giving or receiving. Love is the topmost mystery among the other riddles in this vast universe.


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