William Blake

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William Blake was born in 1757, the third son of a London tradesman who sold knitwear. Blake lived in London which dominated much of his work. He was a British poet, painter, and engraver, who illustrated and printed his own books. He spent most of his life in relative poverty. He was very influenced by his brother’s death which he claimed he saw "ascend heavenward clapping its hands for joy" who died of consumption at the age of 20. He uses the illustrations and engravings in his work to express his visual, spiritual and psychic views about the society he lived in. Blake was tuned to the huge social and political forces of the late 18th century. This can be seen in Blake’s poem ‘The Tyger’ as he uses two symbols of revolution; French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution which both happened in the 18th century. The title ‘The Tyger’ is a symbol which was used in 18th century newspapers, similar to Blake’s symbolic description of the French Reign of Terror. The ‘Times’ newspaper talked about the Reign of Terror as a Tyger: “a tiger stalking the streets of Paris”. This ‘Tyger’ was used to symbolize the uncontrollable power, machinery, evil, violence and energy of the revolutions going on at this time. The description ‘Tyger Tyger burning bright’ is a pun because ‘burning’ could be seen to represent destructiveness whilst ‘bright’ is a deep, powerful word for revolution.

The third verse shows the imagery of the Industrial revolution ‘What the hammer? What the chain? In what furnace was thy brain’. Blake says that the power of a revolution is beneficial, and some times even necessary, and at the same time destructive. 

In the fifth verse: 

‘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?’ 

Blake is saying that if there were only good and no evil, there would be no good because there would be no comparison to what is good and what’s...
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