William Blake (1757-1827), Augustan Age: 18th Century Literature

Blake was a poet and artist who was the son of a London tradesman. He got little education and earned his living by engraving illustrations for books. His own poems are engraved, and not printed. As a child, he had visions of supernatural beings and a realization of spiritual presence in Nature. He also felt the presence of the souls of great literary figures of the bygone days. Since his work was generally unknown and he could not develop lasting relationships with his audience, his later prophecies became increasingly formless and obscure. He was also unwilling to be too explicit in the event of inviting the wrath of the authorities. Blake is one of the most intellectually challenging English poets who possessed a unique insight into the pieties and ideological deceptions of his time.

His works are:

  1. Poetical Sketches (1783): It is an immature lyrical work of early youth, with partial originality. It shows the influence of Macpherson’s Ossianic writing.
  2. Songs of Innocence (1789): The poet shows here the world without morality and God to be trusted implicitly. It is a symbolically resonant lyric.
  3. Songs of Experience (1794): In these poems, the poet depicts fierce moral indignation of a fallen world of repression and religious hypocrisy. There is no simple relation between the ‘contrary states’ and the poet makes no effort to solve their issues.
  4. The Book of Thel (1789): It is rhythmical without rhymed lines, usually of seven syllables. The protagonist who is confronted with the interdependence of life and death flees back to the shadowy world of the unborn.
  5. Tiriel (1789)
  6. The French Revolution (1791)
  7. America a Prophecy (1793)
  8. Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793)
  9. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793): In it, Blake expressed in a series of statements his contempt for 18th-century rationalism and institutionalized religion.
  10. The Book of Urizen (1794): It focuses on the tyrannical figure of Urizen (Your reason’ or ‘horizon’) who symbolizes the inhibiting powers of control and restriction. Urizen is in constant war with a devilish force of revolutionary energy.
  11. The Book of Ahania, The Book of Los (1795) 12. Vala (1797) or The Four Zoas
  12. Milton (1804): Here the poet shows that Milton was of ‘the Devil’s party’ without knowing it.
  13. Jerusalem (1804)

Some of his most famous songs are:
(a) The Tiger
(b) The Lamb
(c) The Evening Star
(d) Love
(e) Summer
(f) Spring

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