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Re: The world in a grain of sand

Posted by TheFallen on December 17, 2001

In Reply to: The world in a grain of sand posted by Migel on December 17, 2001

: I have several times heard the phrase "the world in grain of sand" and wondered what it means. Then I find out it is from a poet neamed Blake. What does this phrase mean? Thank you.

William Blake - Auguries of Innocence

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage.
A dove house fill'd with doves and pigeons
Shudders Hell thro' all its regions.
A dog starv'd at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state...

Blake is never the easiest of poets to understand at the best of times, because he is the first by far who can justifiably lay claim to the title of symbolist poet, and as such is open to personal interpretation.

Here what he is, I think, saying is that one can find vast truths in the smallest of things - or to put it in fashionable literary terms, he's dealing with the microcosmic as representative of the universal. So, knowledge of the whole world can be gained from examining its smallest constituent part, or later on, even such a small thing as a caged robin is an affront to both God and man - it's a tiny thing but it's symptomatic, and absolutely representative of the whole.

Not wanting to get too "Twilight Zone" here, but from the little I understand of today's mathematics and physics, looking at Chaos Theory and the Mandelbrot set, Blake is indeed more literally right than he probably knew. The tiniest part of something does apparently indeed represent the entire construct, and the smallest thing can indeed have a huge effect - there's allegedly a butterfly near Tokyo who with the flapping of its wings has a helluva lot to answer for :)