(June 12, 2008.) Hundreds of people find this post. I’m astonished. Must be searching on William Blake. Well, if you’re interested, I’ve written a personal essay about Blake’s importance in my life. It’s a brief introduction to Blake, too. You can read the essay here. Now back to the original post.
A couple of months ago, my 16-year-old grandson Luke and I had a brief conversation about William Blake, the great English poet-painter-printer-prophet, the great visionary artist (1757-1827). Blake was virtually unknown in his lifetime and until the mid-2oth century, when serious scholarship on him began to proliferate. Interestingly, Blake wrote to a correspondent that it would be 200 years before his work was understood, and he was exactly right. Now I find quotes from Blake and reproductions of his art all around.
I first met him in college in 1963. The next year I did two terms of independent study of his Prophetic Books and it changed my life. In fact, my first husband used to say that it was my affair with William Blake that ended our marriage. There may be some truth in that! Luke asked if he could read the papers on him that I had written. I told him I had trashed them.
The conversation with Luke sent me back to Blake, whom I have continued to study off and on. I read some of his writing and some critical essays that I remembered from the past and decided to read, for the third time, Northrop Frye’s great study of Blake’s writing, Fearful Symmetry. Yesterday I got out my big, fat file of Blake materials and behind all the other papers, I found the three papers I had written in college!
I don’t think there will be much stitching done here as I immerse myself in Blake for a while.
And here are illustrations from two of his Prophetic Books.
This is a page from Songs of Experience, showing how he printed and illuminated his works.
This is the poem on that page, Blake’s mighty condemnation of social injustices that caused such suffering in 18th century London.
Portraits of Blake, from Peter Ackroyd’s biography, Blake.