William Blake: Analysis of his Works and Visions

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William Blake is said to be a very visual artist and in his visions, is where he got all of his ideas. In this essay Im going to explore some of Blakes works and the visions that caused him to write about some of the things that he wrote about. William Blake, born November 28, 1757, grew up as the son of a haberdasher, Blake, with close to zero education in a London suburb due to having a bad temper.

He taught himself everything that he knew. From the ages of 0 to 14, he taught himself how to read and he had read many of Miltons pieces, the Bible, and some of Shakespeares work. He also taught himself Latin (Norton 65). During his free time since he didnt attend school, he spent this time in a print shop.

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He spent his pocket money for engravings of different Italian Masters. All of this freedom that he had helped him to gather impressions and sensations from the world that helped him with his drawings until he died. Later in his life he decided on apprenticing as an engraver instead of becoming an artist, even though he was a friend of many of the great artists. He worked as an apprentice for a well-known engraver. His engraving skills that he learned helped him with his craftsmanship, and a higher branch of art (Raine 9-10).

Blake married an illiterate woman at the age of twenty-four, named Catherine. He decided on courting her in Battersea, and the church where they were married is the only church still standing to this very day (Raine 7). Blake encountered many hardships in his life including being arrested for making slanderous statements about different things. All of the events that Blake endured in his life had a great influence on his masterful writings and drawings. It was once said that Blake and his wife were so poor, that his wife would lay an empty plate in front of him at dinner because they didnt have anything at all to eat, and this made Blake start drawing pictures of what he wished was on his plate. One task that he was assigned was to draw many of the monuments of kings and queens in Westminster Abbey.

When Blake was young he had many different visions that also caused him to start drawing these visions on the flaps of his dads books. One of the visions that he had was of a dark satanic mill where he saw severed humans. Another of his visions was a deadly, horrible dream of the same dark satanic mills and furnaces were burning the people. Those two visions were thought to be from anger that was built up inside towards danger and imagination. He thought and believed that the perfect society was the City of God, and that human spirits were the same in Heaven and in Hell (Raine 8-10).

These visions allowed him to virtually perfect the elements of point of view, setting, characterization, tone, theme, and irony. In first person point of view the author is extremely restricted because one of the characters is telling the story, eliminating the author as narrator. In William Blakes The Chimney Sweeper, in Songs of Experience, the story is told through the eyes of a little boy. And unlike most of Blakes work this poem is not written in a form known as All May Read (Abrams 73). When Blake wrote the rebound of his first collection, Songs of Innocence, his vision of his audience might have been a little blurred; therefore, we as an audience have to take into consideration the mental state of the speaker that Blake has created.

In this particular poem the speaker is a little black thing among the snow. One reason this poem is not an all may read poem is because if the reader is not familiar with Blakes work he or she may not understand why this boy is being called a little black thing; this is not to construe the thought of a racial slur or anything of the nature. The little boy is black because he is covered in soot from the chimney, but how are we to know unless we are familiar with Songs of Innocence. For those who still are unfamiliar with his work it is difficult to understand his perspective because he goes from fiction to realistic and then back to fiction without missing a beat.

Later in this poem of Experience the little boy talks about smiling among the winters snow giving we the reader the impression of some white, snow-capped environment when at that particular time there was very little snow in London (Abrams 70) the whole winter. So he expects the reader to be able to envision this oasis of social forces that have reduced him (the boy) to misery(Abrams 70). Which brings us to the setting Blake has described in this poem. Setting includes several aspects of a work of fiction including the sensuous world of work, the time in which the action of the work takes place, and the social environment of the character. This would be the manners, customs, and moral values that create an image of the character for the reader. The image we get from reading The Chimney Sweeper in Songs of Experience is that of a small lost and abandoned African-American child lying in the snow crying because his parents went to the church to pray for what they want which is not him.

This image does not exactly hit the nail on the head, but this poem is in Songs of Experience so Blake expects the reader to be experienced enough to have read Innocence and understand that when he says little black thing he is not referring to Michael Jordans son. And when he talks about thy father and mother he is not referring to happily married Dick and Jane, he is talking about how society, religion, and government share a responsibility in the persecution of children (Abrams 70). But the ironic thing about this is that a reader who does not understand Blakes intentions can still enjoy this poem. Irony could be defined as a diverse and often complex intellectual phenomenon difficult to be justified in a sentence or two. The intention of irony is to make a precise contrast between appearance and reality.

There are many types of irony that Blake uses in his writing including verbal irony. Verbal irony could be most easily understood in the sense that when somebody says the opposite of what they actually want us to believe. For example, in The Chimney Sweeper the little boy cries, because I am happy, and dance and sing. It is somewhat obvious that Blakes speaker is being sarcastic because by reading the rest of the poem it is easy to acquire the sense that joy and happiness does not give us a strong vibe.

But the vibe to be felt in every poem is the central idea. The central idea, otherwise known as the theme, deals with four general areas of human experience: the nature of humanity, the nature of society, the nature of human-kinds relationship toward the world, and the nature of our ethical responsibilities. When Blake wrote The Chimney Sweeper he was writing it from a socialistic standpoint in that everybody had a particular role in the community. Depending on what family one was born decided what he or she would do for the rest of their lives, no matter what aspirations or dreams they might have. He is a Chimney Sweeper, he was born into that job without a choice, and he says, They think they have done me no injury.

Who are they? They are the same people who influenced Blakes writing. They are the same people who dictate the society with the same logical structure (Bloom 271) with which Blake writes this poem. Unlike The Garden of Love, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, London, and a few other poems that Blake wrote, most have explicit counterparts(Bloom 271) in the other volume that are contrary. In The Songs of Innocence there is another poem called The Chimney Sweeper which is a complete anonym to the poem we have been discussing. It is completely elementary oriented and described as an exquisite platitude of the world(Abrams 71). Though the two poems are so different they are both constructed under the same socialistic viewpoints, only one is presentable to immature readers because it has more characterization.

Characterization is the authors presentation and development of characters. To understand the characterization in The Songs of Experience one has to be able to understand The Chimney Sweeper in The Songs of Innocence. The only characterization is that of the little boy and his disapproval on life and his unhappiness. Though the poem is short it would still do the speaker justice to say his character is simple, especially when it is extremely prevalent that Blakes tone toward his speaker is supportive.

Tone is an aspect of point of view that is known as the narrators predominant attitude toward the subject, whether that subject is a particular setting, event, or even an idea. It is imperative to notice William Blakes choice of words when he describes the little boy to understand his tone. He gives the reader somewhat of the impression that maybe he himself was of a deprived child. Blake does not stand point blank, but it is clear what he implies from the emphasized manifestations that he creates when he talks about the little boy Crying weep, weep, in notes of woe! Blake was raised with a great biblical upbringing, he once declared that, all he knew was in the Bible, and that The Old and New Testaments were the Great Code of Art.All of the events that William Blake endured in his life had a great influence on his masterful writings and paintings, and allowed him to perfect the elements of point of view, characterization, setting, tone, irony, and theme

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