An Overall Survey of William Blake's Poetry

Also Read

Blake's Sources of Poetic Inspiration and Vision:

      William Blake, though a poet of exuberant mysticism and exceptional genius, seemed to have little influence on his generation. A large portion of his message was so incomprehensible, impenetrable, and so very incoherently delivered that even now, after a good deal of patient perusal, his commentators have succeeded in making explicit only a small part of what he wrote. His mind was, as his fellowmen put it, 'possessed'. When he was a young boy one day he screamed with fear because, he said, he saw God put his face to the window. His childhood was full of such visions visions of angels, gods and goddesses of manifold colours standing by the road-side. Such dreams did not cease to be even when he grew up. In his manhood be had fantastic visions and spiritual presences concerning his fate or that of his friends.

These visions played a prominent role in moulding his creed and imagination. His supernatural visions coloured his thoughts and their dresses in a metaphysical hue and air. Gifted with poetic talent he moved in his ideal world propounding abnormal imaginings and giving bodily form to abstractions. He, quite astonishingly, seemed to be vested with the power of summoning up "the angels that soar, regions of demons that lurk." In his everyday life he led a calm and industrious life rendering his artistic fervour both through painting and poetry. From his "prophetic books" alone it is thoroughly evidenced that his inner soul suffered unparalleled excitement and restlessness.
William Blake

      These visions played a prominent role in moulding his creed and imagination. His supernatural visions coloured his thoughts and their dresses in a metaphysical hue and air. Gifted with poetic talent he moved in his ideal world propounding abnormal imaginings and giving bodily form to abstractions. He, quite astonishingly, seemed to be vested with the power of summoning up "the angels that soar, regions of demons that lurk." In his everyday life he led a calm and industrious life rendering his artistic fervour both through painting and poetry. From his "prophetic books" alone it is thoroughly evidenced that his inner soul suffered unparalleled excitement and restlessness.

Blake the Poet:

      Apart from the prophetic works. Blake's eminence as a poet rests mainly on his Poetical Sketches and on his Songs of lnnocence and Experience. These involve lovely lyrics and the visionary gleam which differentiate Blake from the eighteenth century poets and writers. He accepted the Elizabethan stalwarts as his models and worked on them. In four lyrics on the seasons in Blake's volume of Poetical Sketches he describes Nature symbolically; others of this volume are ballads and some delicate little poems of Elizabethan flavour.

Songs of Innocence and Experience:

      Songs of Innocence and Experience are collections of lyrics in which there are many pairs of poems, cach depicting a different mood. 'To put it in Blake's own phrase, they were intended to show "The two contrary state. of the human soul." The tone and the mood of the first section that is, the 'Songs of Innocence' is struck in the first poem - Introduction' itself. In the first series the poet gives expression to the gleeful aspects of childhood and their sports. But as it comes nearer to the more serious aspect of Experience' the poems gather complex imageries and symbols alongwith the so ber ideas he seems to express. Due to this change in outlook and mood, the smooth aspect of human soul magnificently symbolised by 'Lamb' and child gives way to the harsher ones which are again aptly represented by 'The Tiger' and grown up characters such as the 'Bard' and the 'maiden Queen'. In his latter section Blake employs his quill to write against the malpractices of his society as well as the church and State.

      Actually we observe loving care and care-free jollity in the poetic world of Innocence', whereas in 'Experience' repression is the theme, repression of human instincts, human rights and ultimately human life of freedom.

Later Poems of Blake:
      The French Revolution and Napoleon's tyranny had commendably influenced Blake in his early period of poetic creation. But quite amazingly, in the later period of Blake's poetical contributions the political undertone seems to fade from his poems and their mood becomes more and more Christian. About this very time itself (1796 to 1804) his imagery and rhythms (for instance in 'Vala or The Four Zoas'), take on the biblical airs, the visionary warnings and the unending swell which characterise his later works. The two long prophetic books which Blake wrote after 1804, Millon and Jerusalem, have made this religious manner familiar. These later works have helped Blake attain the reputation of a Christian Hermit who stayed aloof from the material world and was observed in his own private mystic visions.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:
      Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell constitutes William Blake's first full-fledged foray into religious, political, social and literary orthodoxy. It is also a self-confidently exuberant announcement of his own principles. In this collection the section titled as "The Voice of the Devil" gives a good many proverbial sentences of Blake's theories, Some of them are:

"Energy is the only Life, and is from the Body: and Reason is the bound of Energy"

      Energy is eternal Delight. Those who restrain desire do so because their desire is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place and governs the unwilling. Again in the Proverbs of Hell' he says:

now enjoy...
Dip him, in the river who loves water...
The busy bee has no time for sorrow..
The most sublime act is to set another before you...
The cistern contains: the fountain overflow..

Previous Post Next Post

Google Search