Tuesday, February 21, 2012

William Blake: Writing, Poem, Painting, and Quotes

William Blake (28 November 1757–12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His prophetic poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language". His visual artistry has led one contemporary art critic to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced". Although he lived in London his entire life except for three years spent in Felpham he produced a diverse and symbolically rich corpus, which embraced the imagination as "the body of God", or "Human existence itself".

Considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, Blake is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterised as part of both the Romantic movement and "Pre-Romantic", for its large appearance in the 18th century.

Early Life
William Blake was born on 28 November 1757 at 28 Broad Street (now Broadwick St) in the Soho district of London. He was the third of seven children, two of whom died in infancy. Blake's father, James, was a hosier. William did not attend school, and was educated at home by his mother Catherine Wright Armitage Blake. The Blakes were Dissenters, and are believed to have belonged to the Moravian Church. The Bible was an early and profound influence on Blake, and would remain a source of inspiration throughout his life.

Blake started engraving copies of drawings of Greek antiquities purchased for him by his father, a practice that was then preferred to actual drawing. Within these drawings Blake found his first exposure to classical forms through the work of Raphael, Michelangelo, Marten Heemskerk and Albrecht Dürer. His parents knew enough of his headstrong temperament that he was not sent to school but was instead enrolled in drawing classes. He read avidly on subjects of his own choosing. During this period, Blake was also making explorations into poetry; his early work displays knowledge of Ben Jonson and Edmund Spenser.

Apprenticeship to Basire
On 4 August 1772, Blake became apprenticed to engraver James Basire of Great Queen Street, for the term of seven years. At the end of this period, at the age of 21, he was to become a professional engraver. No record survives of any serious disagreement or conflict between the two during the period of Blake's apprenticeship. However, Peter Ackroyd's biography notes that Blake was later to add Basire's name to a list of artistic adversaries—and then cross it out. This aside, Basire's style of engraving was of a kind held to be old-fashioned at the time, and Blake's instruction in this outmoded form may have been detrimental to his acquiring of work or recognition in later life.

Royal Academy
On 8 October 1779, Blake became a student at the Royal Academy in Old Somerset House, near the Strand. While the terms of his study required no payment, he was expected to supply his own materials throughout the six-year period.

In 1782, Blake met John Flaxman, who was to become his patron, and Catherine Boucher, who was to become his wife. At the time, Blake was recovering from a relationship that had culminated in a refusal of his marriage proposal. He recounted the story of his heartbreak for Catherine and her parents, after which he asked Catherine, "Do you pity me?" When she responded affirmatively, he declared, "Then I love you." Blake married Catherine – who was five years his junior – on 18 August 1782 in St. Mary's Church, Battersea. Illiterate, Catherine signed her wedding contract with an 'X'. The original wedding certificate may still be viewed at the church, where a commemorative stained-glass window was installed between 1976 and 1982. Later, in addition to teaching Catherine to read and write, Blake trained her as an engraver. Throughout his life she would prove an invaluable aid to him, helping to print his illuminated works and maintaining his spirits throughout numerous misfortunes.

William Blake Archive: Blake Archive

A very quick look at the history and work of William Blake. A short by Stephen Barker, Chu Ya Hwang, and Margarita Romanenko, produced in Flash and Final Cut Pro, 2005.

Multimedia Artist - Part 1 of 2

Multimedia Artist - Part 2 of 2

Blake: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Sketches of William Blake's Inner World from His Pictures and Poems
with Anne Baxter as Catherine Blake and George Rose as William Blake

London, 1827
For 45 years, William Blake wrote, illustrated, & printed his books of visionary poems, assisted by his wife, Catherine.

He is now in his final days ...

Dramatized sketches based on the poems and paintings of William Blake illuminate his visionary world of mythological beings. Like a one-act play, the film suggests what life was like for the Blakes, William and Catherine, while they worked together printing and painting a copy of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in William's last days. A portrayal of artist/poet William Blake's effort to capture "an eternal world of the permanent realities of everything we see reflected in the vegetable glass of nature." Winner of the Columbus Film Festival "Chris" and the Cine Golden Eagle. With Academy Award-winner Anne Baxter and Tony Award-winner George Rose.
New York, NY : Swedenborg Foundation, Inc., 1987.
(30 min.)
Visionary dimensions series
Writers: Harvey F. Bellin, Tom Kieffer.

Marriage of Heaven and Hell 1 of 3

Marriage of Heaven and Hell 2 of 3

Marriage of Heaven and Hell 3 of 3

Here is a virtual movie of the great William Blake reading his much loved poem "The Tiger"

"The Tiger" is a famous poem by the English poet William Blake. The poem was published as part of his collection Songs of Experience in 1794. It is one of Blake's best known and most analyzed poems.

William Blake (November 28, 1757 -- August 12, 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake's work is now considered seminal in the history of both poetry and the visual arts.

The poem is read superbly by Marius Goring........
All rights are reseserved on this video recording copyright Jim Clark 2009

The Tiger
TIGER, tiger, 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 and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and 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?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The Tiger

Auguries of Innocence
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.

A dove-house fill'd with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro' all its regions.
A dog starv'd at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.

A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.

A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipt and arm'd for fight
Does the rising sun affright.

Every wolf's and lion's howl
Raises from hell a human soul.

The wild deer, wand'ring here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misus'd breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher's knife.

The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won't believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever's fright.

He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be belov'd by men.
He who the ox to wrath has mov'd
Shall never be by woman lov'd.

The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider's enmity.
He who torments the chafer's sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.

The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother's grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the last judgement draweth nigh.

He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar's dog and widow's cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.

The gnat that sings his summer's song
Poison gets from slander's tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of envy's foot.

The poison of the honey bee
Is the artist's jealousy.

The prince's robes and beggar's rags
Are toadstools on the miser's bags.
A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

The babe is more than swaddling bands;
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;

This is caught by females bright,
And return'd to its own delight.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,
Are waves that beat on heaven's shore.

The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes revenge in realms of death.
The beggar's rags, fluttering in air,
Does to rags the heavens tear.

The soldier, arm'd with sword and gun,
Palsied strikes the summer's sun.
The poor man's farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric's shore.

One mite wrung from the lab'rer's hands
Shall buy and sell the miser's lands;
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.

He who mocks the infant's faith
Shall be mock'd in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne'er get out.

He who respects the infant's faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child's toys and the old man's reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.

The questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.

The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar's laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour's iron brace.

When gold and gems adorn the plow,
To peaceful arts shall envy bow.
A riddle, or the cricket's cry,
Is to doubt a fit reply.

The emmet's inch and eagle's mile
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne'er believe, do what you please.

If the sun and moon should doubt,
They'd immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.

The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation's fate.
The harlot's cry from street to street
Shall weave old England's winding-sheet.

The winner's shout, the loser's curse,
Dance before dead England's hearse.

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro' the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.

God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.

Auguries of Innocence

The meaning and purpose of blackness according to William Blake presented by Samuel Godfrey George.

The Little Black Boy
My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but oh my soul is white!
White as an angel is the English child,
But I am black, as if bereaved of light.

My mother taught me underneath a tree,
And, sitting down before the heat of day,
She took me on her lap and kissed me,
And, pointed to the east, began to say:

"Look on the rising sun: there God does live,
And gives His light, and gives His heat away,
And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
Comfort in morning, joy in the noonday.

"And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love
And these black bodies and this sunburnt face
Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

"For when our souls have learn'd the heat to bear,
The cloud will vanish, we shall hear His voice,
Saying, 'Come out from the grove, my love and care
And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice',"

Thus did my mother say, and kissed me;
And thus I say to little English boy.
When I from black and he from white cloud free,
And round the tent of God like lambs we joy

I'll shade him from the heat till he can bear
To lean in joy upon our Father's knee;
And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him, and he will then love me.

The Little Black Boy

One of the twelve songs from the CD Blake Songs. Twelve William Blake poems set to music by Paul Howard and Jo Clack.


Words written by William Blake
Music by Charles Hubert Hastings Parry

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green
And was the holy lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen

And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic mills

Bring me my bow of burning gold
Bring me my arrows of desire
Bring me my spears o'clouds unfold
Bring me my chariot of fire

I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
'Til we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land
'Til we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land


Blake poured his whole being into his work. The lack of public recognition sent him into a severe depression which lasted from 1810-1817, and even his close friends thought him insane.

Unlike painters like Gainsborough, Blake worked on a small scale; most of his engravings are little more than inches in height, yet the detailed rendering is superb and exact. Blake's work received far more public acclaim after his death, and an excerpt from his poem Milton was set to music, becoming a sort of unofficial Christian anthem of English nationalism in the 20th century.

The Divine Image
To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of of delight
Return their thankfulness.
For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk, or jew;
Where Mercy, Love, & Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.
The Divine Image

Voice of the Devil (performed by Ulver)

God is The Imagination

Visions of the Daughters of Albion

The Lamb

As a nineteenth century English poet Blake depicts the concept of child just after the industrial revolution.

Chimney Sweeper

The Garden of Love

William Blake Meets Thomas Paine
Gnostic Drama - Part 1

Gnostic Drama - Part 2

Gnostic Drama - Part 3

Gnostic Drama - Part 4

Gnostic Drama - Part 5

Many attempts have been made to set Blake's "Songs of Innocence and Experience" to music, including classical composers, William Bolcom (1984), Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams, and folk singers Greg Brown (1987), and Finn Coren." The attempt I am most familiar with is by hip poet, Allen Ginsberg, who accompanied himself on harmonium on his 1970 recording.

As a lover of Blake's poetry I decided to try recording the complete collection of poems, set partly to original music and partly to adaptations of folk tunes. It is presented here in eight videos, with some assistance from my sister, Annette, also a lover of Blake, and my nephew, Lachlan.

William Blake (1757-1827), now famous for his unique poetic and artistic vision, was not recognised in his own lifetime. His incredibly rich and imaginative poetry expresses a romantic and mystical view of the world, and, though he loved the Bible, an extreme hostility to established religion and the conventional view of marriage, which earned him a reputation for madness or at least eccentricity.

Blake believed Innocence and Experience were the two contrary states of the human soul, and both essential for life. The poems in "Songs of Innocence" either express a child's point of view or are about children. Many have a matching poem in "Songs of Experience", giving a different and darker perspective.Though Blake believed children needed to become experienced, he blamed social exploitation, such as child labour, and dogmatic religion for their loss of innocence.

Part One
1. Introduction - Songs of Innocence (with Annette and Lachlan)
2. The Shepherd - Songs of Innocence
3. Introduction - Songs of Experience
4. Earth's Answer - Songs of Experience
5. The Echoing Green - Songs of Innocence
6. The Garden of Love - Songs of Experience

Blake was very much aware of the irony of presenting songs, basically ephemeral because of their oral nature, not only in written form, but elaborately engraved. His "Introduction" to "The Songs of Innocence" seems to cast doubt on the Romantic notion that the spoken voice could be truly captured in writing. The three instructions given by the child to the piper - to play his pipe, to sing his songs, and to write them down - implies a descent from the pure essence of music, through singing, still spontaneous but restricted by language, to the written word, which, once created, can exist on its own without the need for a human being to bring it to life. The act of writing itself, it is suggested, leads us away from nature to "experience".

The song of "The Shepherd" is a simple description of the shepherd's joyful relationship with his flock, obviously a reference to the love of God in the eyes of an innocent child. The image of people or animals guarding their children is a major motif in these songs.

Whereas the Introduction to "Songs of Innocence" presents the song-writer as a piper, the Introduction to "Songs of Experience" shows him as an ancient bard, asking the sinful earth to return to God. Whether he is a benevolent prophet weeping for the fallen world or a jealous tyrant, he does not represent Blake, who values the world of experience as an essential part of life. Rather, he is Urizen, a figure who turns up many times in Blake's works.

The Introduction is followed by the complex song, "Earth's Answer." Earth perhaps represents the world of experience. Whether she should take the bard's advice or try to remain free in her fallen state depends on our interpretation of the bard's motives in the Introduction. She seems to see herself as imprisoned by his jealousy in a world of darkness.

"The Echoing Green" presents a day in the life of a group of children playing, beginning with the rising sun and ending with its descent. The cyclic nature of the song is reinforced by the "old folk" who watch the children and remember playing on the Green themselves as children, so the daily cycle is a metaphor for the cycle of life from birth to death. The image of the children returning to their mothers at the end of the day on the "darkening green" suggests the joyful return to God when life is over.

"The Garden of Love" shows that the natural Eden-like setting for the childrens innocent play has now been destroyed by the institutions of organised religion, with its rules and restrictions. We find that "the gates of the chapel were shut / And 'Thou Shalt Not' writ over the door," and the final lines beautifully express this restrictiveness not only in the imagery, but also In the tight internal rhymes: "Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds / And binding with briars my joys and desires". The priests have turned the Garden of Love, "where I used to play on the green," into a garden of punishment and death, where the flowers have been replaced by graves.

Songs of Innocence and Experience - Part 1 of 8

William Blake Quotes
Source from; Brainyquote

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.

A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.

Active Evil is better than Passive Good.

Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.

Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed.

Art is the tree of life. Science is the tree of death.

As a man is, so he sees. As the eye is formed, such are its powers.

Better murder an infant in its cradle than nurse an unacted desire.

Both read the Bible day and night, but thou read black where I read white.

Can I see another's woe, and not be in sorrow too? Can I see another's grief, and not seek for kind relief?

Christ's crucifix shall be made an excuse for executing criminals.

Do what you will, this world's a fiction and is made up of contradiction.

Energy is an eternal delight, and he who desires, but acts not, breeds pestilence.

Eternity is in love with the productions of time.

Every harlot was a virgin once.

Excessive sorrow laughs. Excessive joy weeps.

Exuberance is beauty.

For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life.

Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth.

Great things are done when men and mountains meet.

He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy; But he who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity's sun rise.

He who desires, but acts not, breeds pestilence.

He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars: general Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer, for Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars.

He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.

I am in you and you in me, mutual in divine love.

I have no name: I am but two days old. What shall I call thee? I happy am, Joy is my name. Sweet joy befall thee!

I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow.

If a thing loves, it is infinite.

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.

If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.

If the Sun and Moon should ever doubt, they'd immediately go out.

Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.

It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.

It is not because angels are holier than men or devils that makes them angels, but because they do not expect holiness from one another, but from God only.

Lives in eternity's sun rise.

Love seeketh not itself to please, nor for itself hath any care, but for another gives its ease, and builds a Heaven in Hell's despair.

Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that called Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.

One thought fills immensity.

Opposition is true friendship.

Poetry fettered, fetters the human race. Nations are destroyed or flourish in proportion as their poetry, painting, and music are destroyed or flourish.

Prisons are built with stones of Law. Brothels with the bricks of religion.

Prudence is a rich, ugly, old maid courted by incapacity.

That the Jews assumed a right exclusively to the benefits of God will be a lasting witness against them and the same will it be against Christians.

The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.

The difference between a bad artist and a good one is: the bad artist seems to copy a great deal; the good one really does.

The eye altering, alters all.

The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.

The foundation of empire is art and science. Remove them or degrade them, and the empire is no more. Empire follows art and not vice versa as Englishmen suppose.

The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.

The hours of folly are measured by the clock; but of wisdom, no clock can measure.

The man who never alters his opinions is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.

The man who never in his mind and thoughts travel'd to heaven is no artist.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

The soul of sweet delight, can never be defiled.

The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.

The true method of knowledge is experiment.

The weak in courage is strong in cunning.

Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.

Those who restrain their desires, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.

To generalize is to be an idiot.

To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.

To the eyes of a miser a guinea is more beautiful than the sun, and a bag worn with the use of money has more beautiful proportions than a vine filled with grapes.

Travelers repose and dream among my leaves.

Want of money and the distress of a thief can never be alleged as the cause of his thieving, for many honest people endure greater hardships with fortitude. We must therefore seek the cause elsewhere than in want of money, for that is the miser's passion, not the thief s.

What is a wife and what is a harlot? What is a church and what is a theatre? are they two and not one? Can they exist separate? Are not religion and politics the same thing? Brotherhood is religion. O demonstrations of reason dividing families in cruelty and pride!

What is grand is necessarily obscure to weak men. That which can be made explicit to the idiot is not worth my care.

What is now proved was once only imagined.

What is the price of experience? Do men buy it for a song? Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price of all the man hath, his house, his wife, his children.

When a sinister person means to be your enemy, they always start by trying to become your friend.

When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do.

Where mercy, love, and pity dwell, there God is dwelling too.

Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence.

You cannot have Liberty in this world without what you call Moral Virtue, and you cannot have Moral Virtue without the slavery of that half of the human race who hate what you call Moral Virtue.

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.

1 comment:

JH said...

Thanks for this great collection.