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An Overannotated “Auguries of Innocence”

Alexander S. Gourlay


Recently, in reviewing two new editions of Blake, I used “Auguries of Innocence” as a test case to assess the explanatory notes provided by the editors. I chose the poem because it seems to me particularly susceptible to—​and in need of—​intervention of the kind provided by editorial annotation. Each individual augury poses an intellectual problem of some kind. Many are apparently designed to exercise and strengthen the visionary capabilities of the reader, usually depending on a critical unstated fact or idea, but the supplementary information provided in existing editions of this work is sparse and more often occludes than illuminates. I thought it might be useful to some future editors as well as readers to create an “edition” of this poem with explicit versions of every note I could think of, not as a paradigmatic textbook text of the poem (it’s too thorough, though far from exhaustive) but as a resource from which editors could select the information that would be most helpful to their readers.

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