William Blake’s poem ‘The Clod and The Pebble’ examines the nature of love from the perspective of a personified lump of clay and a pebble. The humble Clod believes that love is about selflessness and making others happy through sacrifice and kindness, but the Pebble believes it is about selfishness and a lover receiving what they desire—even if it means hurting others. The poem does not expressly state whether the perspective is superior or more accurate, and both have flaws.
On one level, the poem suggests that love is a fusion of the two perspectives—a blend of selflessness and selfishness. The poem might also be seen as a warning about how love can become a destructive power by making individuals excessively submissive or, on the other hand, too self-interested.
“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 meters 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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