An Unpublished Poem by S. Foster Damon
On a particularly gloomy winter day in 1984 I attempted to cheer myself up by a visit to my friend John Guillot’s bookstore in Charlottesville, Virginia. John, now the proprietor of Magnum Opus in Charlottesville, usually had some tempting volume in the antiquarian section of Heartwood Books, which he managed then. That day he came up with a first edition of S. Foster Damon’s William Blake: His Philosophy and Symbols, in which, he said, there was an amusing poem inscribed by the author. Sure enough, the flyleaf traced a mysterious exchange involving this book, which fell eventually into its author’s hands. The book bears several bookplates, including one of “Richard and Caroline Hogue,” and Damon predicated the poem:
From Caroline HogueThe poem itself reveals S. Foster Damon’s sense of humor, which is quite refreshing! He imagined that
to S. Foster Damon
and back again
April 29, 1941
Hamlet once met William BlakeThe readers of Blake will understand why I immediately purchased the book. I am happy to share it with the readers of the Quarterly, and I would like to thank Morton Paley for suggesting that I submit the poem to Blake, and Catherine Brown, S. Foster Damon’s literary executor, for giving permission to print it.
They chatted, for politeness’ sake.
Said Hamlet: “Do you see that cloud?”
Said William: “Yes! It is a crowd
Of Seraphim shouting ‘Glory! Hail!’ ”
Said Hamlet: “No. It’s like a whale.”
And so they parted, each one glad
that the other, and not he, was mad.