21 Oct 2009

Sample Essay: William Blake

William Blake is one of England’s most famous literary figures. He is remembered and admired for his skill as a painter and poet. Blake was the Romantic artist, whose artwork became part of the wider movement of Romanticism in late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth century in European Culture. William Blake’s art and ideas represent a tested vision of life.  In the Twentieth century, Blake has been renowned as a highly original and important artist and as a member of an enduring tradition of visionary artists and philosophers, an individualist, a libertarian, and an uncompromising critic of orthodoxy and authoritarianism. William Blake was probably the most singular of the English romantics. His paintings are radiant, imaginative, and heavily symbolic, indicating the spiritual reality underlying the physical reality. In his many works of painting, Blake gradually defined a complex personal mythology in which godlike characters he called Zoas symbolize the divine aspects of the human psyche or soul. Blake’s traditional Christian beliefs were modified by a fascination with Mysticism and what is often considered to be his anticipation of the Romanticism unfolding around him. . Blake’s valuable work is recognized with extraordinary depth and ability. It explains artistic, emotional, visionary, Christian beliefs and transcendental views of reality. This paper presents argumentative synthesis about Blake work and supporting Blake’s contribution in the field of literature.

Blake’s own theory is rooted in his declaration that poetry, painting, and music are the three powers in man of conversing with Paradise of which the expulsion from Eden had not deprived him. The reflection of nature and of all perishable things in art was the creation of uninspired men, who fell back on memory to fill its absence. His apprenticeship to engraving under Basire had taught him that drawing is the foundation of pictorial art, and in his Public Address written about 1810 but never printed, Blake defined painting as “drawing on canvas”, and engraving as “drawing on copper”, definitions to which he was moved by the softer school of Schiavonetti, Bartolozzi, and Angelica Kauffman which was coming into vogue in his day Burdett, 1926, Pg: 106). Blake, at least, considered that he had produced a coherent system. Once having achieved this, he was not content to keep it to himself, and just as he drew job recounting his experience to his daughters, showing them the way of salvation, so he attempted to spread his teaching among all. As Blake expressed it, “Every mortal loss is an immortal gain”(Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1939, Pg: 3). Shortly afterwards, in a vision or trance, occurred the first dream dictation of a series which continued throughout Blake’s life.

It is true that Blake shared with the antiquaries of his age far-fetched notions of the origin of British civilization, which they traced back to the Druids and connected with the lost Ten Tribes; but Blake, while accepting such theories, was chiefly concerned in adapting them for symbolic purposes. Blake himself, after his earlier revolutionary enthusiasm had subsided, was a pacifist.  In his Public Address he records the current criticism of his work to have been: “he can conceive but he cannot execute”( Burdett, 1926. Pg: 103). Proponents squabble that Blake in Public Address, disdainfully refers to the “Smears & Dawbs” of what he calls “False Art.” In A Descriptive Catalogue, Blake describes clarity good and bad art. He stated, “The grand style of Art restored in FRESCO, or Water-color Painting, and England protected from the too just imputation of being the Seat and Protectress of bad (that is blotting and blurring) Art” (Bruck 1988. Pg: 57-68)

Many readers are familiar with Blake’s prophetic works such as Milton or Visions of the Daughters of Albion or The Book of Urizen, which emphasize understanding of human importance. They responded with more or less distress that these fantasies point out to typical phenomena. After analyzing the ideas of Blake, few critics would accuse him of being mundanely reality bound in his visual or poetical arts, who, would openly admit to having seen anything like the frontispiece to Europe or Plate 6 of Jerusalem (King , 1991, Pg: 214-15). People who read Blake’s poetry and observe visual creations consider that both works rely on a mixture of the unfamiliar with the familiar concepts. Reader believes that they encounter familiar, which is not to say apparent, symbols and names from the Bible, but it can be kept off balance by the presence of new and strange names like Ahania, Enitharmon and Los. Even exclusively within the context of his own works, readers repeatedly come across similar faces and imagery, but, alienating enough, placed in apparently different contexts (Burdett, 1926. Pg: 103).  This criticism was a convenient way of expressing the fact that, while Blake was capable of executing anything that his imagination conceived, he was entirely at the mercy of his theory of inspiration, and worked without pause whether he happened to be inspired or not. His theory and his practice suffered because he left no room for second thoughts, and anything “done in the heat of his spirits” was justified (Burdett, 1926. Pg: 103). To refute this criticism, it is evaluated that William Blake’s novelty in engraving techniques reflects the brilliant synthesis of visual and poetic art in the “Songs of innocence” (Blake, 1996, Pg: 55-65). Blake always interpreted Bible literally according to its spiritual sense.  Perhaps in all his writings there is no more complete or eloquent expression of his fundamental ideas than that contained in the prose passage addressed to the Christians which may be found in Jerusalem. According to Blake, “I know of no other Christianity and of no other Gospel than the liberty of both body and mind to exercise the Divine Arts of imagination , the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow, and in which we shall live in our eternal or imaginative bodies, when these vegetable mortal bodies are no more” (Burdett, 1926. Pg: 104). One author can declare him a Gnostic and later a pantheist, but these are two distinct heresies. Blake himself was quite convinced that he had a message to proclaim.

In the Terence Allan Hoagwood, Jerusalem, which is considered important deep text of Blake’s work, it is difficult to understand because its author wishes to exercise his readers’ minds, to provoke their faculties to activity. Such arousal is common to all prophecies. Blake termed it mental war.  In his work, visionary aestheticians had supplied specific strategies for achieving this goal, and Blake adopts these strategies as well. One is calculated obscurity, and Blake has locked his vision in dense and difficult form. As Hoagwood states, Blake wanted to inflame his audiences into thought. Blake is referred to as artists specializing in irritation. Blake’s prophetic aesthetics clearly work to disrupt the smooth flow of reading and force reader to reconsider the material at hand. These techniques, as applied in these and other works, create as alienation effects. Just as the “presentation” of multiple roles by one actor in “The Measures Taken” reinforces person’s awareness that the play is, exactly, a presentation, and, through this awareness, forces acceptance or rejection of actions and utterances to take place on a conscious plane. Blake’s techniques described by Hoagwood forces people to step back from his presentation with reference to both text and illustration and rouses faculties to activity (Smith, 1990. Pg: 157-178). Although most of his readers judge Blake as a poet of romantic period, actually he goes beyond the stereotype of the traditional romantic poet. Harold Pagliaro advocates that Blake not only involved in the romantic era of preoccupation with morality but also actually went beyond most of his contemporaries in embracing vulnerabilities to death. One author can declare him a Gnostic and later a pantheist,   but these are two distinct heresies. Blake himself was quite convinced that he had a message to proclaim (Garnett , 1893, Pg: 30). It can be said that Blake had a miraculous insight into current economics, politics and culture, and was able to distinguish the effects of the despotism of church and state as well as what he considered the arid philosophy of a rationalist view of the world.

William Blake, the great predecessor to the Romantics, was a revolutionary and visionary artist and his work represented a decisively new direction in the course the Visual Arts. Blake may have played a critical role in the modern Western World’s conception of imagination. The specialty of William Blake’s work is that he uses numerous literary techniques and devices to articulate his thoughts. He created such literary work because he was a creative thinker, fully conscious of the realities and complexities of experience, particularly the poverty and oppression of the urban world where he spent his valuable life. He was criticized by means of the language of the Bible, which were his own specially created mythology and the extraordinary combination of text and image in his illuminated books. Many people voiced that the dominant philosophy of his work, which believed that a narrow view of sense experience, could facilitate people to understand everything that there was to be known, including God. Blake’s own visionary experiences showed him that rationalism ignored important dimensions of human life which would enable people to hope, to look for change, and to rely on more than that which their senses told them. His belief that humanity could overcome the limitations of its five senses is perhaps Blake’s greatest heritage. While his perspective was once perceived as merely aberrant, it now seems to have been incorporated into the modern definition of the terms. Even today, his artistic and poetic creations are valued in British culture.

Work- Cited

Berlin Isaiah, The Roots of Romanticism. Editor: Henry Hardy 1999.

Bruck, Jan. “Brecht’s and Kluge’s Aesthetics of Realism.” Poetics: International Review for the Theory of Literature 17:1-2 (1988 Apr.): 57-68.

Hagstrum, Jean H. William Blake, Poet and Painter: An Introduction to the Illuminated Verse. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964

King, James. William Blake: His Life. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. Pg: 214-15.

Osbert Burdett.William Blake; Publisher: Macmillan. Place of Publication: New York. 1926. Pg: 103-107.

Smith, Mark Trevor. “Striving with Blake’s Systems.” Blake and His Bibles. Ed. David V. Erdman. West Cornwall: Locus Hill Press, 1990. Pg:157-178.

Garnett R. William Blake, Poet and Painter, 1893, pp. 30, 32.

Blake William. Favorite Works of William Blake: Three Full-Color Books. Publisher: Courier

Dover Publications, 1996. Pg: 55-65.

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