2. William Blake

1. Blake the man and the poet

William Blake was born in London in 1757 into a Lower class family. At ten years was sent to a drawing school and then apprenticed to an engraver. At twenty two he entered the Royal Academy.

Engraving, illuminating and painting were to remain the main sources of this meager income throughout his life. In 1789 he published Songs of innocence. He engraved, instead of printing, his poems, adding a picture that translated the poetic theme in visual terms. In 1794 he published Songs of Innocence and of Experience in a combined volume.

The sale of this and other books was not a success and Blake was forced to illustrate the work of other authors.

Despite his dislike of patronage, he was obliged to look after patrons and rely on their protection and money almost till his death in 1827. 

Of his other works, the so-called prophetic books expressed his belief in the poet as a prophet and sympathy for revolutionary movements; his late mythological poems are often obscured as they are full of a personal mythology and were little known in his time. Blake's work as a whole was not really appreciated until the end of the 19th century.

Blake’s Poetry

Blake's collection Songs of Innocence and of Experience represents only a fragment of his total poetic production, but well illustrates his major themes and his style. Though contrasting with one another, the two parts of the collection are meant to be complementary.

Externally the innocence seems to apply to the condition of man in the Garden of Eden before the Fall, but psychologically it applies to the condition of the child. The inner state of innocence is externalized in a world of images such as the child and the lamb.

Experience is the world of normal adult life, when people are incapable of spontaneity, and the social order produces inequality. It is a state of life whose external symbols are sounds an...

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