William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker who went pretty much unnoticed during his own lifetime. Later, of course, things change. Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age.
William Blake’s work was neglected for a generation after his death. It went almost completely forgotten until Alexander Gilchrist began work on his biography in the 1860s.
The publication of “the Life of William Blake” rapidly transformed Blake’s reputation. The Pre-Raphaelites found a great deal of inspiration in his work.
Fast forward to the twentieth century: It may be only then that Blake’s work was fully appreciated. When it comes to authors, William Blake was a man ahead of his time.
William Blake Exhibition
A major William Blake exhibition is opening in West Sussex. This exhibit celebrates the art or Blake as well as the influence that Sussex had on that art.
“William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion” is the major New Year exhibition at the National Trust’s Petworth House, running from January 13-March 25. The exhibition is the first to bring together for display many of the works that were inspired by his experience living in Sussex.
On loan from the British Museum, will be the hand-coloured relief etching of Blake’s illustrated epic poem Milton, of which only four are still in existence.
Cultural impact of Blake
After Shakespeare, far more than any other canonical writer, his songs have been set and adapted by popular musicians including U2, Jah Wobble, Tangerine Dream, Bruce Dickinson and Ulver. Folk musicians, such as M. Ward, have adapted or incorporated portions of his work in their music, and figures such as Bob Dylan, Alasdair Gray and Allen Ginsberg have been influenced by him.
For a full list of Blakes cultural impact check out the Wikipedia article on just that subject.
- The Poetry Foundation’s page on Blake is particularly interesting.
- For lighter reading, the BBC History guide to Blake is quite accessible.
- The Wikipedia has a long article on Blake.
Blake may be most famous for his poem, The Tyger.
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?