William Blake was a poet with a rather unique view of the world. RITRO.com staff writer, Veronica Hosking, shares her Real Insight Through Raw Opinion.
William Blake was born in London, England in 1757. Many people considered him to be rather off beat. At the age of 4, Blake began to have visions, and he openly talked about them. Still having these visions at 8-years-old, Blake’s father decided to teach the boy at home. Blake proved to be a very talented artist; however, and when he showed an aptitude for drawing, his father had him apprentice with an engraver.
He was best known for his anthologies, Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794). These books showcased both his skills of poetry and engraving. The late 18th century was the start of a new age in the artistic world known as Romanticism. Before this was the classical age - a time when poets, composers and painters were rational and very ordered. Romanticism, on the other hand, “emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental.” (ibiblio.org)
During the Classical age, Dr. Johnson's authoritative Dictionary of the English Language was published (1755). Until then there was no standardized spelling for written words. The spelling of a word would change depending on the person who spelled it. Blake decided not to follow these new standards. His poetry had a certain look in his mind, and he wrote it exactly how he envisioned it. He didn’t care if other people saw him as strange or quaint. “William's behavior was awfully strange, and he never made the slightest attempt to hide it.” (incompetech.com)
Blake fit this age of Romanticism very well with his views - “he experienced visions of angels and ghostly monks, he saw and conversed with the angel Gabriel, the Virgin Mary, and various historical figures.” (kirjasto.sci.fi) As a Romantic poet, he was able to write about these metaphysical phenomenon with the innocence of a child. It helped that his wife, Catherine Boucher, was accepting of Blake’s world. She once said, "I have very little of Mr. Blake's company. He is always in Paradise." Paradise was in everything Blake saw and he wrote:
To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
(Auguries of Innocence)
One of my favorite things about poetry is how it opens your eyes to a whole new experience. In Blake’s work we have been given the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a child, Songs of Innocence.
'I have no name;
I am but two days old.'
What shall I call thee?
'I happy am,
Joy is my name.'
Sweet joy befall thee!
Sweet joy, but two days old.
Sweet joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while;
Sweet joy befall thee!
As well as through the more tempered eyes of adults, Songs of Experience.
My mother groaned, my father wept:
Into the dangerous world I leapt,
Helpless, naked, piping loud,
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.
Struggling in my father's hands,
Striving against my swaddling bands,
Bound and weary, I thought best
To sulk upon my mother's breast.
When these poems are juxtaposed, one can see a beautiful blend of happiness and sadness. You can’t see the joys in your life, if you’ve never experienced sorrow. Blake had a unique perspective on both. No one but his wife seemed to understand until after his death.