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William BLAKE: Life, Main works, Personality


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William BLAKE:


W.B. was born in London in 1757. When he was 10 years old he went to a drawing school, where, working and studying from the statues of Raphael and Michelangelo, he became a famous engraver and began to draw the monuments in the old church of London, especially Westminster Abbey; from which derived his love about Gothic. Later he studied at the Royal Academy of Arts. In 1782 he married Catherine Boucher, who was an important help for W.B.'s work. In 1800 W. Hayley, a now-forgotten poet, offered him patronage, but their relationship was not successful. Blake spent the rest of his life in poverty and obscurity. He died in 1827.

Main Works:

q       The Marriage of Heaven and Hell - (1790):

A prose work is a mixture of aphorisms, anecdotes, proverbs, ect. It's totally influenced by Milton ("Satan's speech") so Satan is positive because full of energy and even because W.B. is fascinated by contrast: "Without contraries there's not progress" They are necessary for evolution so for progress. The contrasts are the essential force of the universe (dynamic vision of the world).

q       Prophetic Books - (1804):



q       The masterpiece: Sister Songs - (1789):

Songs of Innocence:

About the first step of human life, (see "Childhood's myth").

Songs of Experience:

About the adult life corrupted by society, the evil, the sin, ect.: is a negative step of life; but it's necessary to became an adult. A child who lives in primitive condition must grow passing through the experience, now he has not to remain in this negative level, but he has to go over live without it. Only in this way he became an adult: "Is a person who is able to live in balance between innocence and experience".


W.B. was a Pre- Romantic poet:

q       He is a complete artist: a man of culture, an inventor (he invented a special printing which he called "Illuminated Printing"), a poet, a decorator (he decorated to illustrate his own works), an engraver, ect.

q       He isn't a social writer but an individual genius: he doesn't represent a social class but only his geniality and person.

q       He isn't only a poet, but he has to work for living: in fact his official work is engraver.

q       He loves Gothic (Middle- Age's style of this time vs. Classicism):

Mystery and supernatural vs. known and conventional.

Terrifying description (strange setting) vs. classical setting.

Sensibility, feeling, emotions and imagination vs. reason, concretise, regularity and appearance of classicism. For W.B. imagination is the ability to see into the life of things so to open the doors of perception.

Love for religiosity (as obscurity), not as an institution but as an imminent power. The Bible fascinates W.B.; Dante and Milton inspired him.

q       He believed in Romantic myths:

Childhood: child is the emblem of human being, is the best, perfect, pure, innocent, unspoilt age of man. In this age man isn't corrupted by civilization.

Noble savage: is the symbol of return to nature to a primitive state where man lived happy, unspoilt, pure, innocent, in total common with the nature (see "Nature's myth"), see a place of meditation far from society.

Democracy: poor social classes were preferred to the highest one; peasant was a myth, an emblem of Romantic Age and was chosen as the protagonist.

Nature: a refuse from society. It's a state of mind isn't a landscape: an individual mood.

W.B. saw nature with objectivity: the relationship between nature (considered a metaphor for society) and man was objective. There's not a full contact. Now we have a subjective feeling for nature, which was all in all. There was a complete relation between them. Man live in a natural setting. What does man make and what is civilized is negative.

Intimacy and melancholy: the general moods of Romantic poet due to the disproportion between dream and reality, which led the poet to depression.

W.B. being a poet he is also a prophet: the mission is to spread in the entire world the prophecy of his new idea. The prophecy is: "You have to become an adult" (see "Sister Songs" in Main Works). This sentence summarized all his works together at symbols of child, the father, and Christ.

Moreover W.B. was in favour of freedom against every kind of institution: he was a visionary poet (all Romantic poets became addictive of opium).


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