In 1972, when I was 22 years-old, I crossed the Atlantic for the first time, to London, where my sister was living at the time. I went with the rest of my family, including my grandmother, and my friend Cotty Chubb. We stayed in a rented house near Hampstead Heath.
We arrived at night and first thing the next morning Cotty and I headed straight to Bunhill Fields by the Underground. We would have taken the Edgeware-Morden line from Hampstead to the Old Street station, which is just a short walk from Bunhill Fields. At one end of the journey or the other we found a florist and bought three yellow roses to lay on the grave of William Blake, who is buried in Bunhill Fields with other dissenters from the Church Of England orthodoxy.
In 1965 many of the grave markers in Bunhill Fields (whose name is derived from Bonehill Fields) had been removed to create a small park with a lawn — the “fields” of old have become a very small bit of enclosed space. Blake's grave had been unmarked until 1927, when a small stone was erected over it. In 1965 the stone, which lay within the area of the planned park, was moved to a location near the intersection of two paved pathways, which is where we found it and where it remains today, about 20 yards from Blake's actual resting place, in a once-again unmarked spot on the present lawn. (Recently the actual gravesite was re-discovered and there are plans afoot to put a new marker there.)
We laid the roses on the pathway in front of the marker we found. “One for me,” I said, “one for thee, and one for you know who.” I wasn't quite sure what this meant, but it allows me to say today that I laid a rose on Blake's grave for you, whoever you are.
Cotty and I visited several other Blake sites in London, and took a train down to Felpham, on the south coast of England, to see the cottage where Blake lived for a few years and where he wrote Jerusalem.
From the train station in Felpham we took an enclosed double-decker bus to the cottage. It was just before Christmas. In the front seat of the second deck of the bus was a little girl of about 5 years of age, sitting with her mother. The little girl was singing, in a sweet, piping voice, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing!”
I'm quite sure that Mr. Blake arranged this — perhaps to thank us for the flowers.