William Blake Biography Life, Vision and His Poetic Creation

William Blake Biography Life, Vision and His Poetic Creation


Life, Vision and His Poetic Creation[William Blake Biography]

William Blake was a British artist and poet. He was the third son of a London hosier. He was born in London on November 28, 1757. He was a visionary and dreamer from early childhood. In 1782 he married Catharine Boucher, an illiterate girl, whom he taught how to read and write. From 1784 to 1787, Blake kept a printshop in Broad Street, Golden Square, London.

Blake had no academic distinction. Whatever he learned, he learned by his own efforts. He studied painting and became both a poet and a painter. Some of the poems of his Poetical Sketches were written, when he was only a boy of twelve. William Blake was a Republican, but the September Massacre by the Jacobines cured him of all his enthusiasm for the French Revolution. From 1793 to 1800 he lived escaped and came back to London in 1803.


The next period of Blake’s life was very sad. He laboured hard and was not merely neglected but also derided. He was grossly cheated by the publisher Cromeck over his pictures of Canterbury Pilgrims. The most violent criticism of Blake, with the definite assertion of his madness, was openly made. He died in London, on August 12, 1827.

Blake was a romantic poet. He was a romantic painter. Sometimes he illustrated his own poems. He married Catherine Boucher, an illiterate girl, in 1782 and his wife became a true helpmate to him. He published his Songs of Innocence in 1789. Then followed his Prophetic Books which included The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and The Book of Urizen. It was followed by the songs of Experience in 1794. Blake also illustrated Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Blake as a Poet

William Blake had no celebrity in his own age. His genius, as a poet, was explored long after his death. Today he is generally accepted as one of the greatest poets of the eighteenth century as also an important fore-runner of romanticism.

Blake is a precursor of the great romantic poets of the 19th century. The romantic notes in the poetry of the Late eighteenth century was heard powerfully in him. Romantic love for nature and romantic interest in mysticism and humanism were voiced strongly in Blake. Actually, he founded the ‘Romantic Movement’. But he was suspected of insanity. His poetic genius was not seriously considered in his lifetime. So it was left to Wordsworth and Coleridge to bring romanticism in English poetry.

Blake, indeed, had the makings of a truly romantic poet. His lyrics and songs are vibrant with impulsiveness and imagination. His poetry is vigorous and, at the same time, simple. Of course, the mystical elements of Blake’s poetry has often made it a bit obstrusive to general readers.

But that was due to his mystical poetic vision. Blake was a visionary. His vision was always two-fold. He saw through the outward manifestations of things into the soul that was within. And his aim was

To see a world in a grain of sand, And Heaven in a wild flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an hour.

Blake, as a visionary, was a mystic. Most people in his life-time called him mad, and mad he was, of course, according to their common-sense standard. He is actually comprehensible only when he is found to compromise with common sense. He declared that his books were dictated by spirits, yet his greatest poems are those produced not by immediate intuition, but by inspiration, followed by critical and rational revision. “The Tyger”, for instance, is well illustrative in this respect.

Yet, his greatest poems are not the hidden allegories, but the songs which sing themselves out of the common sense and common feelings of mankind, like “The Lamb,” “Infant Joy”, “Holy Thursday”, “The Divine Image”, and “Ah! Sunflower”. Blake was a mystic who believed in the spiritual apprehension of truth, either by a symbol:

“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,“ or, by vision, as in the amazing verses beginning:

“To my friend Butts I write

My first vision of light.” But his eye was the eye of understanding, not of sight. Together with common sense, he rejected morality, and acted in theory, at least upon natural impulses. Blake held that the privilege of seeing into the meaning of things would come naturally to the man whose mind might possess the happy innocence and joy of children. Beauty and joy, indeed, were found to be the fundamental elements in his genius. He was, indeed, Keats and Wordsworth combined, with something of Shelley’s natural sensitiveness to the agony of suffering humanity. Beauty is to him the passport to a spiritual world beyond the physical. Joy was taken by him as the expression of that world intimately realized. As the realization of beauty and the experience of joy would come only to the men with a natural simplicity of soul, Blake has effected in his poetic style a transparent simplicity of the expression in which only a few poets are found to equal him.

Indeed, Blake’s lyrical poetry has the natural outpouring of joy, arising out of an appreciation of and wonder at the transcendent glory of a celestial beauty. Above all, Blake seems to perceive glory in the artless spontaneity of his feelings and their unadorned beauty is a matter of supreme satisfaction. So, more than any other poet of his age, he is able to recapture the song-quality of poetry that belonged to the 16th and the 17th century English poetry.

Blake’s poetry sufficiently illustrates his genius as a technician. His images are simple, yet vivid. His phrases are peculiar, yet haunting. His melody is varied, yet captivating. Moreover, in his poetry is felt the presence of an elfin atmosphere that has made it eerie and charming.

As a poet, Blake stands beside Gray, Collins, and Burns, as one of the great lyricists of an impending great age of poetry. His unerring feeling for rhythm and the beauty of the free variations of his poetic pattern, his almost Elizabethan grace and frankness, coupled with his love of clear outline and simplicity of diction, make his songs admirable to those who, too, thoughtlessly have almost forgotten his contemporaries. His lyrics are unique. Not only are there no songs, like these, for they follow no tradition and they influence no followers. Yet, there are a very few English lyrics as good as the best of them. They are enjoyed not only for their historical importance in an age which was proud, and rightly proud, of its genius and its tradition; but also for their simple and beautiful expression of “two contrary states of the human soul”-childlike faith and wrestling doubt. Here Blake remains unique, as dready asserted as a poet of an impending age of poetic greatness.


William Blake William Blake William Blake William Blake William Blake William Blake William Blake

William Blake William Blake William Blake William Blake William Blake William Blake William Blake

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