191 Years After His Death, the Poet William Blake Is Getting a New Tombstone
William Blake’s final words before his death in 1827 are said to have been, “I am going to that country which I have all my life wished to see.” But for the better part of two centuries, Blake’s unmarked grave meant that his final resting place remained largely unseen and unvisited—until now.
During a special ceremony on August 12, a memorial stone will finally be placed on Blake’s grave in Bunhill Fields, London’s cemetery for nonconformists and religious dissenters, the Islington Tribune reports. Although his grave was located in 2006 using directional coordinates that had been logged by cemetery staff, it took some time for fans to reach a consensus on the new gravestone's inscription, which is an extract from his epic poem "Jerusalem."
The debate grew so heated that some punctuation purists quibbled over the apostrophes. One camp argued that the poet’s “eccentric” punctuation—or lack thereof—should be honored, while others said the proper apostrophes should be added in. The quote in question is: “I give you the end of a golden string / Only wind it into a ball / It will lead you in at Heavens gate / Built in Jerusalems wall.” (Ultimately, it was decided to leave the stanza untouched, apostrophes be damned.)
Although a memorial stone was erected in 1927 in honor of Blake’s memory, the language was rather vague, according to the book Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses, by Mental Floss editor Bess Lovejoy. The inscription read, “Nearby lie the remains of the poet-painter William Blake … and of his wife Catherine Sophia.” The stone did in fact mark Blake's location, and the "nearby" referred to his wife.
However, in 1960, the stone was moved about 20 yards during cemetery renovations, and Blake’s grave once again went unmarked. It wasn’t until 2006 that two fans of Blake’s work, Luis and Carol Garrido, tracked down the exact location of Blake’s burial site—a common grave in which Blake lies buried beneath seven other bodies.
To fans of Blake, the memorial is a long overdue tribute to one of England's foremost poets. The gravestone unveiling ceremony on August 12 will feature musical performances, and 191 candles will be lit around Blake’s grave in commemoration of his death anniversary.
[h/t Islington Tribune]