William Blake was a romantic 1st generation poet who was born on November 28th 1757, into a lower class family. Blake discovered his skill for the arts at a young age as him enthusiasm to paint inspired his work.
He was sent to a drawing school at an early age. The education Blake received was minimal as he learnt only to read and write. Blake may have lacked traditional education however he was fluent in both Greek and Latin and had a vast knowledge of biblical works.
A major event in Blake’s life was the death of his brother Robert, through Consumption.
Robert’s death inspired William to strive to gain ever more intellectual knowledge especially to gain from and to pursue spiritual knowledge. Blake retained this throughout his life.At the age of ten, William tried desperately to convince his Father he had witnessed the visitation of an Angel sitting in a tree. The materialisation of God’s messenger enhanced Blake’s faith, as he was already a devote Christian.
Blake’s witnessed many more visitations such as the appearance of Gods face in a window. These occurrences affected Blake’s believes and this is demonstrated throughout his works, both in poetry and engraving. He believed a poet such as himself should also act as a prophet, to inform his audience of future events.William Blake had a great aversion towards the Monarchy and also the Church.
Blake believed that the church was corrupt and its solitary concern was to gain money from the Christians who worshipped in its buildings. Blake believed that the Church’s outlook on subjects such as child poverty, child abuse and child slavery i.e. Children working long hours as chimney sweeps.
His deep disgust of the mistreatment of children is illustrated throughout Songs on innocence.Blake was enormously conscious of the demise of morals in society and believed the world had desensitised. The world was advancing and leaving behind the beautiful, natural world in return for a innovative, industrialised lifestyle. Blake believed due to war, societies had began not to view evil in the same light as past ills were view as in earlier times, as these sins were now view as being acceptable.
Blake thought that society failed to see such evils as child cruelty, prejudice and animal cruelty He saw them as being unacceptable behavioural practises. Blake reflects his view on society and the evil contained within it in The Songs of Innocence and The Songs of Experience.Blake’s works act upon the notion that we all have a soul is divided into two opposing parts, a state of innocence and a state of wrath. People witness their own wrath through the evil demonstrated in society.
Blake portrayed his work on the viewpoint that we need elements, anger and innocence to survive and we can only appreciate the harmless simplicity of innocence when faced with the wrath of a threatened insecure world. Blake himself experienced poverty thought his life. Blake believed we need to have wrath to see the beauty of innocence. An example of Blake’s views on innocence is illustrated in his poem ‘Infant Joy’.
The intention of a poet is to convey the feelings of people and the world we live in. Blake involves the attitudes of both himself and the moral majority regarding the realisation that the world God gave us is less than ideal. Blake embraces these subjects which tend to be too precarious make to reference to, and are generally left out of day to day topic discussions. The reason to why Blake does this is for the reason that he feels can achieve a reaction from the public by appealing to there intellect.
In the Songs of Experience, Blake’s running theme is anger. Blake describes the harshness of society, the world and the nature destroyed and damaged because of the unsympathetic world. In Songs of Innocence, Blake’s themes include peace, simplicity and security, however doubts about the future may be apparent. Blake is clear throughout that the child is innocent and the adult is experienced.
‘The Lamb’ originates from The songs of Innocence portrays the simplicity of a waxen, untainted lamb and the magnificence of an unpolluted environment. ‘The tyger’ the poem I will contrast it to is from The Songs of Experience. It portrays the austerity of a tiger and the rage behind itBlake wrote both ‘The Lamb’ and ‘The Tyger’ with a deeper meaning that what is seen on the surface. Blake illustrates the type of habitat the tiger dwells in:” Tyger, Tyger burning bright,In the forest of the night.
“This describes the colourful, orange tyger compared to the dark, dullness of the forest in which it lives. The tiger’s natural habitat may be perceived as being evil and images of utter darkness are conjured in the readers mind.In the first stanza of ‘The Lamb’ , Blake poses a question to the lamb asking who its designer was:”Little lamb who made thee;Dost thou know who made thee?”This question is directed towards the lamb. The style of questioning is simply and easy to understand to such a meek animal.
Blake addresses the lamb as a child and he an adult, by choosing to use the word “thee”.The tiger is also questioned about who created it too:”What immortal hand or eyeCould frame thy fearful symmetry.”This is the same question asked to the lamb yet the tiger is questioned in a different, more mature. By saying “immortal” it could be describing God, as he is eternal.
The “symmetry” may be a reference to the tiger’s bodily stripes or an alternative reference could be that the tiger is nothing but evil on both sides.In ‘The lamb’ a continuation of the question is asking:”Give thee life and bid thee feedBy the stream and o’er the mead.”Blake continues to question the lamb’s existence and lists all the fantastic gifts its initiator had given him. An example of the gifts is giving it the gifts of life and precious food to survive.
In ‘The tyger’ the poet continues probing the tiger:”In what deeps or skiesBurn the fire of thine eyes.”The “skies” could be describing the distance beyond what is under our feet i.e. heaven and hell.
The reference to fire is demonstrated in many Blake poems as Blake was a devote Christian and fire is symbolic of Jesus being the light of the world. Although from an alternative perspective fire is damaging and can cause major destruction, as can a tiger, a wild animal.Blake mentions the offerings the lamb has received from its maker:”Gave thee clothing of delightSoftest clothing woolly, bright.”Gave thee such a tender voiceMaking all the vales rejoice?”This talks about the gifts that God has presented to the little lamb with such a woolly coat and bleating voice.
Blake further questions the tiger in this quotation:” On what wings dare he aspire?What the hand dare seize the fire?”The “wings” described maybe reference to angels of God and the fact that the tiger has freedom. The fact that he is so free elevates him. This is also an indirect way of asking who does the tiger worship. The fire mentioned may refer to Hell or the tiger being evil, destructive as an animal with an angry and aggressive temperament.
The tiger could be said to have wrath in its soul.In the last two lines of the first stanza the initial question is repeated:” Little lamb, who made thee;Dosr thou know who made thee?”The effect of this may be to emphasise the childlike quality the lamb has. The poet repeats the question for the lamb to understand and learn.The tiger’s questioning by Blake continues further:”What the hammer? What the chain?In what furnace was thy brain?What the anvil? What dread graspDare its deadly terrors clasp?”This verse speaks of the moulding and forming of the tiger through a rather industrial process.
Blake was a great believer in the natural way of life. Blake was completely against the industrial revolution and when describing the tiger the creation is made to sound mechanical. In Blake’s time period industry involved fire and heat especially when making metal-based products. The method is a complex process and Blake believed the industrial revolution was a negative, disparaging force and was destroying the uncomplicated way of life.
The tiger’s fabrication is perceived to be relentless, strenuous labour.’The Lamb’ starts the second stanza by vowing to respond to the question.”Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,Little Lamb I’ll tell thee.”Blake replies to his own questioning by answering the lambs question for it.
This is because the lamb is a naï¿½ve creature, unaware of who created him.’The tyger’ in stanza four generates an image of the tiger:”When the stars threw down their spearsAnd water’d heaven with their tears,Did he smile his work to see?Did he who made the lamb make thee?”This incorporates the Genesis story and wonders if the God who made the lamb made the tiger. It is less straightforward to see that a benevolent God made such a ruthless creature. This stanza also includes the everyday elements too i.
e. Rain, thunder and lightning.The finishing stanza of ‘The Tyger’ repeats the first verse; with the exception of the word “could” is substituted with the “dare”. By altering the structure of the inquiring the poem ends with a sense of uncertainty and incompleteness Blake refers to religion in answering the lambs question:”He is called by thy name,For he calls himself a lamb.
“This quotation refers to the fact Jesus is often called ‘The Lamb of God’. Through informing the audience that Jesus and the lamb have the same name, Blake is elevating the status of the lamb to one equal to that of God, elevated from mankind.Blake continues to contrast the qualities of the lamb with Christ:”He is meek and he is mildHe became a little childI a child and thou a lamb,We are called by his name.”The poet paints a mental portrait of both Jesus and the lamb.
Blake notifies the lamb that himself and Jesus were and are both children. Once again the lamb is set on equal status as God. The use of the words ‘meek’ and ‘mild’ generates a sense of humbleness and a quiet temperament about the lamb. Blake also mentions the detail that we are all lambs of God as we follow him and submit ourselves to his power.
Blake finishes the poem with a sense of completeness and finality:”Little lamb, God bless thee,Little lamb, God bless thee.”Blake emphasises the lamb’s childlike nature once again by repeating himself twice. Blake tells the lamb at the very end who did make himIn both poems Blake includes questioning in each. The manner in which Blake questions is diverse.
Blake questions the lamb in a childlike and simple manner such as ” Dost thou know who made me” yet the tiger is questioned is a complicated and uncertain manner.
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