Verious Aspects of William Blake's Poetry

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No Propounder of a School :

      William Blake's poems can be summarised as 'pouring in profusion' of 'unpremeditated art' in 'full-throated ease'. Undisputed as it is, he is no founder of any particular school or thought like Wordsworth or Donne: yet his poems are outstanding, and matchless in its variety. He gave no preface to his poems such as Wordsworth had given nor did he profess any theory of simple diction' or rural subject matter and 'annals of the poor.' For Blake it was his visions that mattered more than anything else. Blake is a solitary figure. the greatest practitioner of symbolism in the entire horizon of English literature and the beauty of his works is par excellence. He is second to none, not even to the celebrated French symbolists.

Blake's originality kept him apart from the general public and from official recognition. Only a small section of aestheticians fell his ingenuity and greatness. Blake had less of alien influence: instead, most of his contributions depend on his own intuitive visions of spiritual presence. The very core of Blake's philosophy is derived from these visions of his own mind. As James Thomson puts it Blake was always poor in worldly wealth, always rich in spiritual wealth. Blake was chiefly and emphatically a seer. Like Swedenborg, he always relates things heard and seen, more purely a mystic than Swedenborg, he does not condescend to dialectics and scholastic divinity.
William Blake

Blake's Eminence :

      Blake's originality kept him apart from the general public and from official recognition. Only a small section of aestheticians fell his ingenuity and greatness. Blake had less of alien influence: instead, most of his contributions depend on his own intuitive visions of spiritual presence. The very core of Blake's philosophy is derived from these visions of his own mind. As James Thomson puts it Blake was always poor in worldly wealth, always rich in spiritual wealth. Blake was chiefly and emphatically a seer. Like Swedenborg, he always relates things heard and seen, more purely a mystic than Swedenborg, he does not condescend to dialectics and scholastic divinity.

Blake the Romantic :

      Blake is not a Romantic, in the strictest sense of the word. He lacks what the Romantic poets are characterised with - the nostalgia, and a disgusted approach towards the world. In his approach towards nature and human bondage he is both a Romantic and a revolutionary. An element of Romanticism found in Blake, though in a lesser degree, is his absorbing sense of self.

Swiftness of Expression :

      Closely connected with Blake's concentration of thought is his swiftness of expression. Many of his lyrics appear to have been written rapidly without alteration. Others show a few minor changes. Others show again considerable and even repeated changes of great importance, and sometimes a poem is actually changed in the course of creation into something quite different in content and meaning. But the changes themselves are swift and striking. He often changes a great thing into something much greater, or seldom returns to an earlier form without an obvious reason. In fact we understand his dictum that it is in a Time, Iess than a pulsation of the artery,' that 'the poet's work is done.

Influences on Blake :

      Many of Blake's poems belong to his own pure and spontaneous in-born ideas, but he is not wholly independent. Blake can be seen have been influenced by eminent writers. He paid Socrates the compliment of calling him 'a kind of brother' and allowed Plato the honour of having anticipated his own ideas on poetry and the arts; but of only two masters did he write with unqualified admiration and these were chemists. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell he says, any man of mechanical talents might from the writings of Paracelsus or Jacob 'produce' ten thousand volumes of equal value with Swedenborg's, and in a verse letter to Flaxman he recalls his early masters:

Appcared to me. Terrors appeared in the Heavens above And in Hell beneath..
Isaiah and Ezra. Shakespeare and Milton, then Paracelsus and Behmen.

      From these passages we may gather that what fired Blake's imagination in the alchemical philosophy was the teaching of the famous smaragdine table of Hermes Trismegistus (Blake names this work in Jerusalem'): "That which is above is like that which is beneath, and that which is beneath is like that which is above, to work the miracles of one thing. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, often said to contain Blake's most original thought, is in truth an impassioned restatement of the philosophy of Alchemy.

The Lyrical Beauty of Blake's Poems :

      Blake was more a poet than an artist or painter and he was, furthermore, a poet after the tradition of Shakespeare and Chaucer with regard to the lyrical splendour of his works. His poetic career can be seen to have been facilitated by the linguistic medium he chose. The vocabulary adopted by Blake was amazingly comprehensive but the ideas expressed through them are profound. A critic says: "Every lyric is a window into the imaginative world, and even in these early poems his roses and lambs are more than metaphorical; they are archetypal (having their own original meaning and significance) symbols that focus multiple meanings, soundings into the universal source of myth and oracle: hence their power." When Shakespeare as a lyrical poet was absorbed in the folk songs, and Wordsworth in the ballad form, Blake drew his lyrical sustenance from the Bible and the Protestant hymn. Blake supersedes other Romantics in the fullness and variety, whole-heartedness and absence of the reflective and diluted moralizing of his poetry.

      Poetry of Sounds or the Musical Notes of Blake's Poems :

      Each poem of Blake is "a jewel-casket beautiful in itself. Open the casket a little way and you are dazzled by the wealth within, look long and you will see that every jewel has its place, and the casket within and without is itself an image of something yet more beautiful and emits rays of light brighter than the sun at noon-tide." Blake's poems are of abstract substance; concrete in form and imaginative in essence. Its emotion is that of its thought and its beauty is the beauty of idea. There are no human beings in the world of Blake's poetry, only primal instincts and energies of imagination. His work begins in the Garden of Eden, passes through the valleys and flowery dales to the den of lions and tigers. He brings angels and goddesses into his poetic world, makes the birds and saplings speak, and assigns even the meanest of all creatures a key position in his divine world of poetry.

Symbols and Images :

      Blake's poetic development does not, consist in the number of his poems: it does not rest upon the development of thought, nor is it traceable in his variety of poetic pictures; but actually it consists in the development of symbolism. At each level of his development of thought he draws in new sets of symbols to communicate his philosophical, religious and aesthetic concepts. In his later poems Milton and Jerusalem the use of symbolism is predominant and it's pictorial representation is overwhelmingly elaborate.

Imagery :

      The imagery we come across in Blake's works is the product of his vision. At their best, these visions are illuminating and often they turn to be cloudy too. He found symbol as the best media to deliver his complex visions and his exploring mind was readily supplied with a host of symbols. He chose it from nature, universe, constellations and the world of God or the spiritual world. Thus he dressed gods, goddesses, angels and flowers for his own poetic purpose and associated his ideas with them. Where he lacked God or a mythology he made up one for himself and was, in this way a myth-making poet after the fashion of Spenser. When we observe Blake's Poetical Sketches in this light we can sense Blake's attempt to liberate himself from the conventional modes and fashions. But he is not exclusively free from his predecessors. Yet we can perceive his extraordinary innovations with a shock of discovery

Let thy west wind sleep on
The Lake: speak silence with thy glimmering eyes.
And wash the dusk with silve..

      This image, one of the most astonishing in this volume, represents a whole new way of "seeing in poetry.

Pastoral Imagery :

      The essence of Blake's vision is normally pastoral with a Christian emphasis. In Poetical Sketches even ships are sheep and stars are angels. The imagery of pastoralism includes animals; but animals are wild as well as mild and the idyllic scenes of 'Innocence' suggest the latter. In other words vision darkens from idyllic reverie to observation of natural fact in course of his development of thought. The Christian concern has its other side too, inevitably suggesting morality and the melodrama of death. It is from this concern that Blake's apocalyptic imagery takes its start. Combined with this is the poet's device of pathetic fallacy. The ease with which Blake stimulated the inanimate objects and mixed with the animate resulted in some of his happiest pictorial effects; but it was also the particular ingredient in his talent that passed most rapidly out of his control and which then resulted in cloudy rhetoric. But the imagery of pastoral visions was without such dangers for Blake. The purity and felicity of his pastoral narration is effectively brought out in his Songs of Innocence. But when the poet passes to Experience this beauty is not completely eroded; it only collaborates beautifully with intellect:

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

Variety of Imagery :

      In Experience, to quote an example, we find the pastoral imagery giving way to the industrial, economic, scientific and sexual elements. These intellectual figurations lie outside the pastoral realm, and even out side the undiluted vision. His imagery is meant to be in touch with the experience of common humanity and due to this very fact his images are congruous and appropriate.

Symbol of Hypocrisy :

      One of Blake's remarkable symbols is good and evil wedded as one, and this at times was fascinating. This symbol is the hypocrite. The hypocrite, the wrongdoer who knows his wrong, is the silent witness to the knowledge of the right. Elsewhere Blake says (in one of his poems) how his honest love failed before the hypocrisy of a woman. He also presents hypocrisy in the form of an angel in the poem.

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