Blake, William. (1757 - 1827).
W o r k
- poet, painter, engraver, and illustrator
- illustrations for his poems = an integral and mutually enlightening combination of words and design
- ‘illuminated printing’ = his own method of relief etching, used to produce most of his books of poems (hand-coloured, or printed in colour)
P o e t r y :
- subtle, symbolic, and allusive x but: the ambiguous style veils radical religious, moral, and political opinions
Songs of Innocence (1789) > Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794):
- vision of the world by ‘two contrary states of the human soul’
(1) Songs of Innocence: a hymn-like simplicity, nursery-rhyme
(2) Songs of Experience: compressed metaphor and symbol
- (1) introduced by the piper > (2) introduced by the ‘voice of the bard’
- (1) a shift beyond the innocence… > (2) …into an awareness of the Fall
- interrelates the poems of both volumes as a series of shifting perceptions:
(1) a falling away from the Edenic innocence to experience
(2) the possibility of progress toward a Christ-inspired ‘higher’ innocence
P r o p h e c i e s :
< influenced by Swedish visionary and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg
- insisted he had been granted visions by God which he could translate and interpret by interfusing picture and word
The French Revolution (1791), America: A Prophecy (1793), and Europe: A Prophecy (1794):
- wrote while supporting the French Revolution: a purifying violence leading to the redemption of humanity
x but: his later poetry shifted from an apocalypse by revolution to an apocalypse by imagination
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790 – 1793):
- God is neither good nor evil x but: contains the germs of both
=> the necessity of merging heaven with the creative energy of hell
The First Book of Urizen (1794) and The Book of Los (1795):
- prophetic books involving Urizen (oppressor), Los (rebel against Urizen), and Orc (both rebel and oppressor)
The Four Zoas (unfinished), Milton (1804), and Jerusalem (1820):
- prophetic books concerned with the biblical plot interpreted in the ‘spiritual sense’: the Creation, the Fall, and the promise of a New Jerusalem
- written in the persona, or ‘voice’, of ‘the Bard’
(Painting: Thomas Phillips. 1807. Source: Wikimedia Commons).
AuthorWilliam Blake. (1757 - 1827). British.
WorkPoet. Illustrator. Author of Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794).
GenresRomanticism. Mysticism. Visionary poetry.
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Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.
"When the stars threw down their spears, / And water'd heaven with their tears, / Did he smile his work to see? / Did he who made the Lamb make thee?"
From "The Tyger".