From: Jonah Cali
Subject: William Blake CJH1
Blake: The Purity of life
Blake not only a poet but an Artist in general is one of England biggest
influences for literature. William was a middle child basically, and living in
the days where the infancy mortality rate was big. Majority of the information
about him is portrayed through his writings. Being the regular British kid he
was, he wasn’t exactly a big extrovert. Even though being the middle child,
most of his siblings died off so it wasn’t like he didn’t get any attention.
Yet again he was different. He wasn’t really big on studies of the math and
sciences, but early along the way pursued the study of fine arts such as painting
and poetry. The more you dig into Williams early past you see that his parents
where more into the Greek fine arts and lettering, which reveals that his
parents were the initial influence of love for art. He was not a part of a
struggling family, for a good amount of time Blake enjoyed wealth. It gave him
more opportunity to span his knowledge of Greek art. His mother and father also
bought a number of books for young William. Due to the support of his parents
James and Catharine Blake he was able to develop his skill in the fine arts at
a very early age. Blake and his work laid dormant for a generation after his
death and was almost lost, it wasn’t until the 1860s when people started to
write biography’s and reports on Blake’s old work and after then it started to
spark many influences in literature, plays, and also music.
William Blake was
born on November 28 1757 in Soho, London, Great Britain to James and Catharine
Blake. He was born the third of several children. Two of his siblings died in
infancy. James his father worked as a tailor or a hosier. His mother taught him from the age of ten
before that attending school enough to read and write. At the start of James
career, he wasn’t relatively wealthy until William started to grow into his
teenage years. Regardless James bought his son canvases, engraving tools and
William started to engrave Greek drawings and letters into objects at an early
age. Blake found himself expose to works of Michel Angelo and other influential
Greek artists and painters. Later on His mother and father got more money and
started to see more income and bought Blake a selection of various books.
Williams’s family were big Christians as well, getting him baptized at a very
early age. Blake’s biggest influence would be the bible most of all. He used it
as his moral compass for his work and you can clearly see it. Right about when
William turned ten his family started to realize that math and sciences isn’t
for him and he slowly realized it himself, he was about to either go to school
for art and poetry or not go at all. He enrolled in drawing classes shortly
after that at the Pars’s drawing school in Strand. At this point he read on
subject of his own choosing, mostly the bible to Edmund Spencer. Blake
constantly made more explorations in literature, and in the bible taking big
influence from the book of psalms. The more Blake dug deeper into the bible,
the more his works encompassed the thought of spirituality and human life. He
would speak of mystical vison like angels and heaven. Sometime later he took up
an apprenticeship with Mr. Basire as an engraver lasting till the age of 21.
Basire sent Blake to copy the Gothic style images from English churches. Those
experiences at Westminster Abbey help form the long lasting signature style of
Blake and his art. Blake was sometimes tormented by the boys who can actually
go into the Abbey but Basire defended him one time knocking one of the boys off
had a strong cultural influence wasn’t actually started until the late 1800s.
When the book “The life of William Blake” was published nobody actually paid
any attention to his works. As his name started to his arise his work was fully
appreciated. Twentieth century artist started to enhance the works of Blake.
Artist such as S. Foster Damon, Geoffrey Keynes, Northrop Frye, David V. Erdman
and G. E. Bentley, Jr. started to use Blake and his style in their works. Once
the modernist period started to rise it influence even twice as more artist
then the mid twentieth century. Jude Singer a British artist argued that
Blake’s thoughts on human behavior greatly anticipate and parallel the famous
psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Jung stated
“Blake a tantalizing study, since he compiled a lot of half or undigested
knowledge in his fantasies. According to my ideas they are an artistic
production rather than an authentic representation of unconscious
processes.” Blake also had a big influence on beats poets in the
1950s. Blake also had a relationship
with the enlightenment philosophy. He strongly opposed the Newtonian view of
turn my eyes to the Schools & Universities of Europe
and there behold the Loom of Locke whose Woof rages dire
Washd by the Water-wheels of Newton. black the cloth
In heavy wreathes folds over every Nation; cruel Works
Of many Wheels I view, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic
Moving by compulsion each other: not as those in Eden: which
Wheel within Wheel in freedom revolve in harmony & peace. (Jerusalem 15.14–20,
is where his Christian roots kick in. Instead of thinking that science controls
the world and only science is what we live by is thought to be nonsense by
Blake. Blake believe the god and earth are connected and that is how life is
controlled. This had a big influence in countering the Newtonian scholars who
were growing back in that time of scientific discovery. Writers such as William
Butler Yeats are a strong followers of Blake and his works. His works have
instilled the ideas of rebellion for subjects such as war, and conformity.
the Author/Major Works
After Williams’s apprenticeship his life starts to pick up
and he becomes more independent. Blake married once to Catharine Boucher in
1782. Blake’s first collection of poems was printed around 1783. Following his
father’s death Blake and one of his former apprentice James Parker opened a
print shop in 1784. Blake illustrated “Original stories from real life” by Mary
Wollstonecraft and started to share some of the same views on sexual equality
and marriage. Afterword Blake took a strong stance on marriage without love and
the right of women to self fulfilment. Blake back in his time was more famous
for his engravings. His most famous piece was finished right before his death
called “illustrations of the book of Job”. Blake wrote big pieces on religion. In one of
his writings called “The Everlasting Gospel” Blake portrays Jesus as a
Supremely Creative being.
If he had been Antichrist Creeping
He’d have done anything to please us:
Gone sneaking into Synagogues
And not us’d the Elders & Priests like Dogs,
But humble as a Lamb or Ass,
Obey’d himself to Caiaphas.
God wants not Man to Humble himself (55–61, 519–20)
Blake constantly refers to Jesus in
his works but instead of directly naming him he makes him a symbol describing
him as the unity between divinity and humanity. Blake did not express strong
feelings towards orthodox Christianity. He felt as orthodox Christianity
discouraged earthly joy and creativity.
Blake also had works on controversial issues such as slavery and
equality. Blake absolutely hated the idea of slavery and created explicit
illustrations such as “A Negro Hung Alive by the Rib of a Gallows”. Blake from
a young age also had many visons like seeing god or angels causing him to make
illustrations such as “The Ghost of a Flea” Which is a very detailed painting
of an Archangel.
of Study/Striking Features
Although it wasn’t difficult finding credible sources on
William Blake, what I came to learn left me with awe on how the mind and one
human can influence a whole world of literature and art. It may have taken some
people generations to find out about William Blake but it is clear that his
works didn’t let anyone down. Researching Williams works and especially his
illustrations left me with the thought of what my imagination can spark. His
works were super detailed like he actually was witnessing these things happen.
Reading up on Blake made me think of how religion can play a big impact on
morals and the way people think and live. Blake’s ideas shaped a society and
also questioned it. That’s brought me to the realization that without question
in society, where would we be at today, there is always the need for an
opposing force to bring question and balance to society or society will be
defiantly bound to one idea.
Even though Blake’s influence didn’t spark a huge change in
literature it left a lasting effect till this very day. His writing encompasses
every factor of life. He touches on politics, religion, life, and humanity. He
questions the very existence and what are purpose is on this earth. While in
his illustrations he covers a wide variety of subjects as well showing people
what mostly those controversial topics are. Blake over all plays a big role in
questioning, what religion is, or what is right, what does love entail, and
what should marriage entail. Through Blake’s ideals Questioning existence can
lead to answers beyond what we thought we could find.
James King (1991). William
Blake: His Life. St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 0-312-07572-3.
Saree Makdisi (2003). William
Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s. University of Chicago Press.
R. N. Essick & D. Pearce, eds.
(1978). Blake in his time. Indiana University Press.
Michael Ferber, The Social
Vision of William Blake. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1985.
Jean H. Hagstrom, William
Blake. Poet and Painter. An introduction to the illuminated verse,
University of Chicago, 1964.
“William Blake.” Biography.com,
A&E Networks Television, 10 Oct. 2017, www.biography.com/people/william-blake-9214491.CJH2