William Blake as a Romantic Poet

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Looking at two or more poems by William Blake consider what makes these works Romantic. “Romanticism... is an international artistic and philosophical movement that redefined the fundamental ways in which people in Western cultures thought about themselves and about their world.”

Blake was born into a state of social change an ‘Age of Revolution’ and his poetry certainly reflected his strong opinion of how society was being oppressed by political and cultural influences. He believed that the Industrial Revolution in particular created a mechanical environment which stripped humankind of their imagination, happiness and spirit, a society led by money, greed and power that no longer recognised the beauty that surrounded them in the form of nature and what had been God given. The Laughing Song(Songs of Innocence) is a lyrical poem that reflects Blake’s simplistic view of the wonder of nature and the joy it offers. He personifies aspects of nature such as “When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy” (line 1) and demonstrates that the beauty that God has created “When the painted birds in the shade” (line 9) can be compared to the power of our imagination. The comparison between these Gods given gift of beauty, which he intrinsically links to humanity by personifying nature, suggests that human creativity in on par with the spiritual power of nature itself. Another suggestion of the link between the power of imagination and the power of nature is in line seven and eight. “When Mary, Susan and Emily With their sweet round mouths sing ‘Ha,Ha,He!” Here he is possibly proposing that birdsong can be created by these girls, making them as special and no different to the creatures that sing around them. The intimation of intense joy that can be had in such an uncomplicated environment opens up the prospect of refuge and escape from the synthetic changes in civilisation. Romantic Poetry endorsed the need for imagination, feelings and emotions, with emotion as the key necessity to balance logical reason. This concept was interpreted by Romantic poets by using their direct voice as the poetic speaker rather than a persona, thus allowing the poet to convey his beliefs and concerns. Holy Thursday (Songs of Experience) is a powerful and effectual poem that critiques the treatment of children “In a rich and fruitful land” (line two.) Blake constructs the second stanza with no rhyme and containing interrogative and exclamatory sentences, which certainly demonstrates his incredulous anger and seems to be questioning the reader as to why this is happening, “And so many children poor? It is a land of poverty!” (line seven and eight) This highlights the hypocrisy between the fact that England is a prosperous country yet our children are living in poverty. The division of adults and children is also seen in stanza three, where Blake uses the repetition of ‘their’ and not ‘us’ and cleverly uses the metaphor of weather imagery to bring attention to the lives that the children are leading; And their sun does never shine,

And their fields are bleak and bare,
And their ways are filled with thorns,
It is eternal winter there.

The skilful placement of the Biblical references; the crown of thorns that caused pain and suffering for Jesus Christ places the children symbolically alongside Jesus, affirming the point that children are pure and of God’s creation. The other key link to God is that the children are in eternal darkness, not receiving light or love, specifically not receiving the light, warmth and love of Christ. Society is depriving these children of their God given right and therefore are committing a sin in the eyes of the Lord. “For the first time (children) were presented as individuals...” This blatant reflection of Blake’s own social consciousness represents his rejection of oppression and injustice and directly challenges religious views of original sin and the notion that children were of no importance, which was a core...
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