William Blake London 1757-1827 Blakes life Poet, painter,
William Blake London 1757-1827 Blakes life Poet, painter, visionary mystic, and engraver; illustrated and printed his own books;
belonged to lower class family no formal education: first educated at home, chiefly by his mother at ten attended a drawing school at fourteen apprenticed as an engraver from his early years, he experienced visions of angels and ghostly monks: he saw and conversed with the angel Gabriel, the Virgin Mary, and various historical figures. Blakes works
His early poems at the age of 12. 1783 - first book of poems, Poetical Sketches. 1789 - Songs of innocence. 1790 - 1793 The marriage of Heaven and Hell. In this work Blake expressed his revolt against the established values of his time and attacked the conventional religious views. "Prisons are built with stones of Law, brothels with bricks of Religion.". 1791 The French Revolution: a poem in seven books In this work he enthusiastically welcomed the French Revolution 1793 - America: A Prophecy. 1794 a combined version of Songs of innocence and experience.
1794 Europe : A Prophecy. 1794 The Book of Urizen 1804 1811 Milton: a poem 1804 1820 Jerusalem the sales of Songs of Innocence and Experience and of others of his books were not a success; he was obliged to illustrate other authors works to earn his living and to look for patrons and depend on their protection and money. 1791: Mary Wollstonecraft, Original Stories from Real Life 1797: Edward Young, Night Thoughts
1805-1808: Robert Blair, The Grave 1808: John Milton, Paradise Lost 1819-1820: John Varley, Visionary Heads 1823-1826: The Book of Job 1825-1827: Dante, The Divine Comedy (Blake died in 1827 with these watercolours still unfinished) Blakes thought
Dual vision of Life This dual vision of life was characterised by both positive and negative elements. It emerges clearly in his Songs of Innocence and Experience. According to Blake, the state of innocence and that of experience are contrasting but complementary: they both coexist in the human soul. He thinks that the state of innocence is to be found
in Heaven before Adam and Eve were banished for committing the sin of pride, and . in children who have not yet experienced the evils of society. The images used to describe this state are the lamb and the child. This positive attitude towards life changes into a negative one when the poet turns to look at society, the world of adults who are selfish, never spontaneous, always ready to exploit the weak and the powerless. This is a world of sorrow, distress and suffering and its main symbol is that of the tiger, a beautiful animal, full of energy, but also a terrifying one capable of killing other living beings. Dual vision of God
As a logical consequence, Blake comes to the conclusion that there must be a dual God, too: one good and one wicked. In other words, he sees the creator not only as a loving God who takes care and provides for his creatures but also as a powerful, fearless, cold and severe being capable of punishing his creatures even if they are innocent. The question Blake asks is how is it possible that the God who created the lamb - a mild, meek, innocent animal that would never harm anyone - could also create the tiger? , that is a beautiful but also dangerous animal. How is it possible that this God allows the powerful to exploit the weak, the innocent and the oppressed?
Imagination Imagination is . the ability to see more deeply into the life of things. This power is peculiar to the child, the man in a state of innocence and the poet. They can all penetrate into the surface reality and reach its true essence in order to understand the most profound meaning of life. They can see what ordinary men cannot see. In the poem London, for example, the poet can see more deeply and clearly the evils that oppress London and its population. He sees these evils through visions blackening churches and palaces
covered with blood or sounds cries of sorrow of young chimney sweeps and young prostitutes. This notion of imagination does not imply the existence of two worlds, one ordinary and one transcendental. The world is one, but what differs is the way we look at it . Blakes criticism of society Blake was deeply involved in the social and political issues concerning the American and French revolutions. He supported enthusiastically the struggle for independence of the American colonies and the egalitarian claims of the
French Revolution. Most of his poems and works are clear evidence of his sympathy for the poor and the oppressed. London, for example, is a clear indictment of the secular and spiritual authorities, the Monarchy and the Church, which do nothing to protect the weak and the powerless. Interest in children The theme of childhood is present in both Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, but the child is seen in a completely different way. In the former, he is protected and loved by God and even
when he comes into contact with the world of the adults, like in The chimney sweeper, he regains his freedom in a luminous dream and finds himself in a childrens paradise. In the latter, instead, the child is abandoned and neglected by everyone both his parents and society. Here he is the symbol of the oppressed, the weak. The poet and his role Blake thinks that the poet is a visionary man and a sort of prophet, too. He also claims that the poet is gifted with imagination and creates works of art and, therefore,
can be paralleled to God, whos the Creator of the whole universe. The poets task is to warn men against the evils they themselves cause and are unable to see. The tone used in his poems is often that of a prophet: emotional, grave, indignant and compassionate for those who suffer. Style In Songs of Innocence and Experience, Blake uses simple lexis and syntax and
a lot of repetition adopting features that are typical of childrens songs, religious hymns and ballads . He frequently uses personification, metaphors and symbols. His poetry is full of images that mix both literal and metaphorical meaning.
Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. William Blake. c.1786 Blake's Newton (1795) Hecate, 1795. Blake's vision of Hecate, Greek goddess of black magic and the underworld Blake's The Lovers' Whirlwind illustrates Hell in Canto V of Dante's Inferno The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve, c. 1825. Watercolour on wood. Elohim Creating Adam (1795)
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