Who knows poetry (English) and does not know William Blake? I bet the population of this lot must be meagre, negligible and, perhaps, non-existent. English poetry cannot be thought about without thinking about William Blake, the transcendental poet who took poetry to a new level altogether – beyond imagination, intellect and thoughts, a mixture of everything, in short. In this article, today, I am going to write about his poetry and also introduce a collection of poems that has every poem written by him.
The Complete Poems: William Blake, published by Penguins in 1977, is a collection that any English poetry lover must have. This collection has all the poems by Blake – from the beginning to the end, from imaginative to realistic, from angelic vision to humane emotion, anything and everything in verse ever written by William Blake. This is the best collection of Blake’s poems out there.
What makes poetry by Willam Blake special? Many may ask. For those who have read Blake in past, it does not pose a very challenging question. Critics hint that William Blake’s poetry is rich in its symbolism, mysticism, and use of imagination that often transcends beyond conventional imagination utilised by the poets before him. One thing that remained constant throughout the poetic journey of Blake was that he often wrote about spiritual and religious themes (you can also note his prose works). The use of vivid imagery and unconventional styles also had their impression on the poems written by Blake. In addition to all these imaginative and stylistic tools, Blake’s poetry was also very close to the social truths of his time. He explored social and political issues, such as poverty and the plight of the working class in many of his poems – refer to the Chimney Sweeper. We can bring out these features in a sequence.
- Symbolism and mysticism: Blake’s poetry is filled with symbolic imagery and mysticism, which is used to express complex ideas and emotions.
- Use of imagination: Blake’s poetry is known for its emphasis on the power of imagination, which he saw as a means of accessing deeper truths and understanding the world.
- Exploration of spiritual and religious themes: Blake’s poetry often deals with spiritual and religious themes, such as the nature of God and the human soul.
- Social and political commentary: Blake’s poetry also addresses social and political issues, such as poverty and the plight of the working class.
- Simple language and unconventional punctuation: Blake’s poetry is written in simple and direct language, and often features unconventional punctuation, which gives it a unique and distinctive style.
Blake visioned the world very differently from other poets and literary luminaries. He described the world as a place of both beauty and corruption. The striking contrast in his collections – songs of innocence and songs of experience – exhibits his understanding of the world in vivid colours. Unlike a poet and more like a seer, Blake believed in the existence of two realms: the natural world and the spiritual world. The natural world, according to him, is the world that we live in. The spiritual world has been defined by various philosophers, spiritual masters, saints, sages and Gods themselves (in Hindu philosophy, Sri Krishna has defined many things beautifully in Gita). Blake also wrote about the tension between these two realms. He believed, and one can mark it in his writings, that greed plays an important role in corrupting the natural beauty of the world we live in. Songs of experience are full of references to human follies that have destroyed (in his times) the world of pleasing natural beauty, innocence and truthfulness.
Reading the works by William Blake can be a wonderful experience for anyone. Those who love reading poems by Romantic poets will also find his works more than just pleasant. Blake, many believe, was among the first ones who participated in the annunciation of the romantic movement in English literature. Furthermore, his work remains relevant today and can resonate with readers on a personal level. Some of his well-known poems include The Tyger, The Chimney Sweeper, The Lamb and The Tiger which are widely studied in schools and universities. Nevertheless, for readers who are not well-versed in reading English poetry, Blake’s poetry can be challenging! It might be difficult to understand due to the complexity of its themes and symbols. However, if you read some helpful books or just read the poems more than once, William Blake will be an amazing poet to please your aesthetic as well as the intellectual sense of poetry! All the best!
By Ashish for Indian Book Critics