“A Robin Red breast in a Cage/ Puts all Heaven in a Rage.” So wrote William Blake during the revolutionary age that began in America and France in the late eighteenth century, thus identifying the revolutionary mind with which we have since become so familiar. It is a mind that not only focuses on random and arbitrary instances of what it sees as wrong with the world, but also presumes to speak in lieu of “Heaven” to anathematize such wrong. Blake’s revolutionary—it’s never clear how far he may be identified with the poet himself—is incapable of the thought that the “Robin Red breast” might not mind life in the cage quite so much as he imagines and could actually prefer it to an uncaged existence. Nor does the zealot care that there may be many worse injustices in the world needing attention and possible amelioration. He isn’t really interested in...


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