Blake and His Far-Out Travels

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By Eric Loy

It’s summer. Offices are empty; others are under construction. Many of us have been called away on summer business or have fled to more exotic locales. I’m on the road myself, typing from a very fine bagel shop in Ithaca, NY.

I like to travel. I really like bagels.

Unfortunately, an adventurous cosmopolitan spirit and dedication to the most hole-y of rolls doesn’t offer a lot of traction with our man Blake. Readers who are even somewhat familiar with Blake’s biography know that he didn’t exactly “get out” much. Except for a few years spent near the shore in Felpham (way down in West Sussex), Blake never really left London. (Also no evidence that he ever got hold of a really good bagel.)

But perusing the Archive, we know that Blake did appreciate travel. Only, his travel was more the internal, “like, far-out, man,” kind of movement.

I’m referencing, of course, Blake’s poem “The Mental Traveler” from his unpublished Pickering Manuscript. The poem–like a lot of Blake’s stuff–recounts a vision full of artistic and religious symbolism. Here’s a ms. excerpt of the first few lines:


I traveld thro’ a Land of Men
A Land of Men & Women …read more