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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).

  • Author

    William Blake. (1757 - 1827). British.
  • Work

    Poet. Illustrator. Author of Songs of Innocence and of Experience  (1794).
  • Genres

    Romanticism. Mysticism. Visionary poetry. 


Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.

Baugh, Albert C. ed. A Literary History of England. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967.

Coote, Stephen. The Penguin Short History of English Literature. London: Penguin, 1993.

Sampson, George. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1946.

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".


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