Hitchin school librarian discovers William Blake poem is fake

The error was spotted by a school librarian

The error was spotted by a school librarian - Credit: Archant

A SCHOOL librarian has stumbled upon a discovery which reveals a poem often attributed to William Blake was not actually written by him at all.

Thomas Pitchford, who is based at Hitchin Boys’ School, found that Two Sunflowers Move into the Yellow Room was not written by the 19th century poet as many believe, but by American author Nancy Willard.

The discovery was made after he came across a handout from a primary school which contained three poems, one of which was Two Sunflowers, purportedly written by Blake.

“Though the poem sounded familiar, I was pretty sure that wasn’t true and consulted a copy of Blake’s complete works,” said Mr Pitchford, who has been a librarian at the school for nine years.

After consulting the book and finding no trace of the poem, the librarian started to look elsewhere and was reminded of Willard’s works.

“The thought of paying tribute to Blake reminded me of Nancy Willard’s Newbery award winning book A Visit to William Blake’s Inn,” he said.

“Acquiring a copy of the book verified her authorship of the poem Two Sunflowers.”

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It’s not known exactly how widespread the error is, but many schools in the US and UK have been teaching the poem as Blake’s. Lesson plans found on online Google searches by My Pitchford corroborate this.

The error is also recorded on resource websites, bibliographies, and even Ofsted reports, with Mr Pitchford tracing its origins back to a website produced by a group of students in 2001.

His research, conducted across three UK counties, reveals the possibility that a quarter of all schools teach and attribute the poem to Blake – although he says the ratio is “hopefully much less”.

“Hopefully the recent breaking news will make most people look at their sites and make whatever corrections are needed,” he said.

Although Mr Pitchford cannot remember when the leaflet was first handed to him, he has been investigating for about a year, and has been in touch with Willard since October.

Her response, posted on his blog thelibraryspider.blogspot.co.uk, was: “Blake must be turning over in his grave.

“Do not put ALL your trust in the Internet. Go to the firsthand sources.”