William Blake Essay

1878 words - 8 pages

William Blake

William Blake is one of England’s most famous literary figures. He is remembered and admired for his skill as a painter, engraver, and poet. He was born on Nov. 28, 1757 to a poor Hosier’s family living in or around London. Being of a poor family, Blake received little in the way of comfort or education while growing up. Amazingly, he did not attend school for very long and dropped out shortly after learning to read and write so that he could work in his father’s shop. The life of a hosier however was not the right path for Blake as he exhibited early on a skill for reading and drawing. Blake’s skill for reading can be seen in his understanding for and use of works such as the Bible and Greek classic literature. Interestingly enough, Blake’s skill for writing went largely unnoticed throughout his life. One of his more famous works, Songs of Innocence, which he wrote and illustrated, with the help of his wife Catherine Boucher, sold slowly and for only a few shillings during his day. Today a copy of this work sells for thousands. While his skill as a writer was not recognized until after his passing, at the age of 14 his father noticed his skill as an artist and apprenticed him to James Basire, a noted Engraver of the time. After spending some time as an apprentice and student at the Royal Academy, Blake was able to set up his own engraving business at 27 Broad Street in London. This venture proved to be largely unsuccessful and from this point on, in the year 1784, at the age of 27, Blake's career as an engraver-poet-prophet began.

In addition to being a poet and engraver Blake is described as a prophet because many of his works are themed with religion. There is evidence that Blake was instilled with his sense of religion from a very early age. At the age of ten he tried to convince his father that he had seen angels in a tree and throughout his life he often admitted to speaking with apparitions, angels, devils and spirits. These figures are the characters in many of his works. The role of Religion as a strong influence in Blake’s life was probably formed by the events he experienced during his upbringing. Blake came from a poor family and among other hardships witnessed the death of his older brother Robert at the relatively young age of 20. Robert’s death had a profound impact on Blake and after witnessing it he said that he saw his brother's soul "ascend heavenward clapping its hands for joy". The inspiration that William received from his brother death is an underlying theme in many of his works and most likely in his view of life as well. Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience are two of Blake’s collections that emphasize his ideas. Many of the things that affected Blake’s life as a child: poverty, struggle, loss, confusion, and faith can be seen in these works.

Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience are contrasting views of the same events. Each contains a collection of poems that profile an idea,...

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