William Blake: A Literary Life (Literary Lives) by John Beer
By John Beer
Overlaying Blake's early profession, his significant works (such as Songs of Innocence and of expertise) and his paintings as a visible artist, this new examine is a needs to for all Blake students and fanatics. contemporary discoveries bearing on Blake's forebears and their faith make this new research also well timed.
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Extra info for William Blake: A Literary Life (Literary Lives)
From such distinctions he developed his idea of the man of spirit as a ‘mental traveller’, who, walking through the world of experience or labouring at his creative work, develops his real ‘intellect’, and in doing so discovers true wisdom. (Representations of this figure in his work range from the traveller hasting in the evening in The Gates of Paradise (Figure 22, p. 205) to his apparent self-identification with Chaucer’s Plowman in his Canterbury Tales design (Figure 21, p. 205)). His own ideal of the passive state, similarly, submits him not to the world of sense perception but to the inner illuminations of innocent vision, mediated by affection.
7 This is by no means the only note to be struck in Poetical Sketches, however. The alternation between visionary ardour and firm independence that has already been noted in his early dealings corresponds to a feature of Blake’s personality that shows itself repeatedly. Not only was he subject to contrary moods, he seems to have cultivated them actively, 20 William Blake believing (in the words of what was apparently his advice to others) that ‘Truth is always in the extremes – keep them’. The maxim, however unwelcome to a century that valued the ‘golden mean’ and sought to dissuade people from extremes of any kind, was one to which he firmly adhered.
Traces of Tradition? 21 With sweet May dews my wings were wet, And Phoebus fir’d my vocal rage; He caught me in his silken net, And shut me in his golden cage. 9 In spite of the resonances of the final word, there is little sign that Blake had proceeded far along the road to freedom, beyond an early conviction that its true home was in England. In the Poetical Sketches he showed little or no sign of dissent from the political views regarded as orthodox in the England of his time. Even in the dramatic piece ‘King Edward the Fourth’ and ‘A War Song to Englishmen’, which proclaimed the need to fight valiantly for Albion’s liberty and future prosperity, there are no signals to suggest that they were intended to be read in any way ironically.