~ by Adrian M. McGlinchey || Re-posted from original dated July 17, 2012.
William Blake, poet and illustrator, is sometimes mistakenly associated with the English Romantic poetry movement because he lived in the same era as his Romantic contemporaries Byron, Coleridge, Keats, Milton, Shelley, Tennyson and Wordsworth. Mister Blake’s poetic themes, however, were more mystical than worldly or sensual, even though he cared passionately about the social injustices happening in the real streets and alleyways of London, England (ref: the poem “London”). He also took a keen interest in the revolutionary causes unfolding in Paris, France, and Boston, America.
Blake created entire mythologies and archetypes of his spirit world, many of which were intricate, lengthy and often obscure to the general reader. Having said this, William Blake made use of very compact simple sentences that were rich in powerful symbology. Attempting to read William Blake for the first time can be made easier by trying the shorter poems first, such as; The Sick Rose; A Poison Tree; London; The Tyger, etc. All of these poems use plain but intense language, and they are rich in imagery and have multiple layers of meaning.
To understand the more ambitious works in The Prophetic Books, you may need to find some good academic essays that offer informed insights into the Blakean world. You can read a few introductory articles at Questia’s web site:
An overview of the poetry and art of William Blake can be taken by looking up the following web links:
There have been, over the years, many fine books published in print, on William Blake, his life, poetry and art; so search your libraries and bookstores like a true brown-nose. The illustration at the top left is taken from my personal copy of The Portable Blake (The Viking Portable Library 1946 – Penguin Books 1976 Reprint). This edition still has a proud place on my bookshelf.
*Special Note: A word of caution regarding the paintings, prints, drawings and manuscripts of William Blake; most of these precious works of art are the property of various galleries, societies and private collectors, even though Mister Blake died almost two centuries ago; so be wary of reproducing and publishing copies of these artefacts without proper permission, as they are protected by copyright law. Always use authorised publications of Blake’s poetry and limit yourself to quotes and small extracts within your own essays and discussion articles, and acknowledge, where possible, your information sources.