William Blake: A Modern Poet Ahead of His Time

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Born in 1757, William Blake passed away in 1827. English poet, painter, and printmaker whose work was heavily influenced by the Bible and who opposed the values of the industrial revolution. One of the most celebrated Romantic poets in history, he went on to have a profound impact on the field of poetry. Thomas Macaulay (1800-1859), who purchased thousands of William Blake’s unsold works, first brought Blake’s writings to the public in 1825.

Who Was William Blake?

William Blake, the famous poet and artist, was born in London. Although he had begun his education at the Royal Academy, it was cut short when he was expelled for disruptive behaviour. He then went on to pursue a career as an illustrator and became good friends with the poet John Milton. In addition to his paintings, he is also well-known for his poetry, which includes the collections Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1810).

Blake’s conviction that experience corrupts innocence is illustrated in these two volumes, which feature works that veer between the playful and the cerebral. It was in 1827 when he passed away.

First collection of works by William Black

Poetical Sketches (1783), Blake’s first published book, is a collection of juvenile verse that largely mimics classical forms. War, tyranny, and King George III’s treatment of the American colonies are all themes that are addressed in these poems. In 1789, he released his best-selling collection, Songs of Innocence, and four years later, in 1794, he released Songs of Experience.

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Songs of Innocence has been read in a variety of ways, with some people taking it at face value as a children’s book and others finding subtle signs of parody or critique in the seemingly naive and simple lyrics. The two Song books were published with lavish illustrations in a style reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts. The book was printed from copper plates, and the watercolours were added by hand.

William Black as an iconoclast

Blake was a contrarian who hung out with the likes of Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft, two of the most prominent radical thinkers of his day. He rejected the Neoclassical norms of the eighteenth century by insisting that ideal forms should be built not from observations of nature but from inner visions, thereby privileging imagination over reason in the creation of both his poetry and his images.

Many of his poems, including “The French Revolution” (1791), “Visions of the Daughters of Albion” (1793), and “Europe, a Prophecy” (1794), express his disapproval of the English monarchy and the political tyranny of the eighteenth century.

In The Book of Urizen, religious persecution is the main focus (1794). The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-93) was a satirical prose work in which he lampooned the tyrannical power of both the church and the state.

William Blake Views on Religion

According to Blake, all of reality is an idea, and ideas are both infinite and everlasting because they originate with God. This world and everything in it are only expressions of these timeless concepts, and as such they remain unchanged regardless of the passage of time.

Similarly, Blake did not think there were many gods, but rather that there was just one all-powerful deity that existed somewhere beyond the universe.

Themes in Blake’s Poetry

Even when he chooses to represent the subject of his poem physically as a tiger, rose, or lamb, his poetry always has a mystical or spiritual meaning. As Dante had advised for the comprehension of his Divine Comedy, there are four various levels at which one can comprehend Black’s poems. The first is literal meaning, in which a poem’s meaning is limited to being a list of occurrences or an external depiction of something or an understanding.

The second is a moral one, in which, as in Dante’s poetry, only the moral instructions in a sequence are given a positive and negative interpretation, with rewards for the right behaviour and punishments for the wrong. The third type is allegorical interpretations, which offer a symbolic explanation of a belief system. Anagogical meaning, the fourth and ultimate degree of meaning, requires a mystical reading of the poems.

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One of his most well-known poems, “Tyger,” features the unconventional spelling of the word “tiger” to convey the intense feeling of passion he was experiencing at the time he wrote it. The opening line of the poem exemplifies this effect; “Tyger, tyger! burning bright.”

 He also used engraving, whereby the writing material is applied to metal, to achieve the desired impression. His painted images added a new dimension to the meaning of his poetry. Black has used the triadic division scheme beyond its original scope to the poetry’s subject matter.

Blake frequently addressed moral and spiritual subjects in his poetry, such as the relationship between man and God. He was one of the first poets to employ what at the time sounded revolutionary religious imagery in his writing. He also frequently uses mortality and the beauty of nature as motifs in his poetry. These two topics are thoroughly examined in one particular poem, The Tyger.

Blake frequently employed shocking concepts or imagery to elicit fresh thoughts and feelings in his audience. For instance, during his time working as a printer in London, he penned a poem titled “London” on the squalor, destitution, and criminality that ravaged the city.

Blake’s Influence on Other Poets

There is no denying Blake’s influence on poets who came after him. His work as a visionary poet and artist was avidly accepted by the Romantics, in particular the Pre-Raphaelites, and they continued to draw inspiration from it throughout the nineteenth century. A new generation of poets emerged at the dawn of the twentieth century, inspired by the expressionistic tone of Blake’s poetry to develop their own works.

Why William Blake Is Considered a Modern Poet

One of the main reasons Blake is regarded as a modern poet is his frequent use of epigrams. Epigrams are brief poems or comments intended to have an impact. Epigrams were used to honour and remember people in antiquity and the Renaissance; nowadays, they are employed for a number of reasons.

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Blake used epigrams frequently in his poetry, as well as in his annotations on the works of other poets and in a collection of his own that he published under the title The Everlasting Gospel. For instance, he wrote one about the American pre-Revolutionary War hero Urizen: Urizen!

Final Thoughts

Blake’s latter years, which he spent in abject poverty, were made more bearable by the adoring affection of a group of emerging artists they referred to as “the Ancients.” He met John Linnell, a young artist who provided financial assistance and also helped to spark interest in his work, in 1818. Blake’s cycle of illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy, which he worked on until his death in 1827, was commissioned by Linnell in 1825.

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