Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Genius of William Blake

William Blake 1757-1827
By Laurie Epps

When you discuss poets of the Romantic Era, nobody can have an intelligent discussion without the mention of William Blake. So today, though he's known for a lot of works, as both poet & painter, I've selected a few of my favorite depictions of William Blake's life.

William Blake is often referred to as the prophet of Great Britain, and he's revered as a visionary. As exemplified in his famous hymn, Jerusalem, Blake wrote not only an unofficial anthem for Britain, but is also his opus giving England a hymn of an idealized Britain.

Some facts about William Blake's life:

  • William Blake was born on November 28, 1757 in SoHo, U.K.
  • Blake saw visions as early as the age of six.
  • Blake also saw himself as quintessentially blessed.
  • Blake also insisted that he learned how to paint from one of the visions in his dreams.
  • William Blake hated religion, but yet committed himself to the bible.
  • Blake referred to Jesus as "the Imagination."
  • His is most known for his three main poetry collections:
    • Songs of Innocence,
    • Songs of Experience, and
    • The Garden of Love.
  • Blake fell in love with gothic art, and saw it as organic.
  • According to Blake, the academy was a sign of all that was wrong with the world.
  • Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience was published in 1794.
  • William Blake was a self-publisher, and published his own works using copper etched plates.
  • William married Catherine Boucher in 1782. At the time of their marriage, Catherine was illiterate and William taught her to read. 
  • The sexual exploits of the couple were notorious. For example, once Blake and his wife were caught playing Adam & Eve in the yard.
  • Blake felt that politics and vision go together, and this is evident in his poem "the Tyger."
  • Blake was not as well known for his work till he confronted the world with it at the age of 52.
  • William Blake joined a group called "the Ancients," and later became their unofficial leader.
  • Blake was nicknamed "the Interpreter."
  • On August 12, 1827, Blake died with Catherine beside him. Strict instructions were given to close his eyes upon death to keep the vision in.

There's a wonderful series from the BBC on William Blake's life available for view for free on You Tube. Part of what makes it so fabulous, is that you can see the artwork, hear his music & poems simultaneously. To view part 1 of a 5 part series, click the link above. You can finish the series by following the prompts provided by You Tube.

Blake's poem as it appeared in his book

A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend; 
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe: 
I told it not, my wrath did grow. 

And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears: 
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles. 

And it grew both day and night. 
Till it bore an apple bright. 
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine. 

And into my garden stole, 
When the night had veild the pole; 
In the morning glad I see; 
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

Close-up of Blake's Fallen Friend
  •   A Poison Tree is truly a poem about friendship.
  •   Blake talks about how a misunderstanding can fester into a full-blown argument.
  •   Anger can become a much bigger problem if it's not tended to.
  •   Anger can eat at your very soul--- and destroy an otherwise good relationship.

Laurie Epps is a recent graduate of Anderson University majoring in Creative Writing. Already Laurie is most published as a feature article writer, essayist, and poet. A seeker of beauty and world traveler, Laurie hopes to grow into a career in travel writing illuminating the many stories that make us human despite our differences. Currently, Laurie also has a Monday Morning Book Club column dedicated to writers everywhere.

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