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A Comparison Of Blake, Wordsworth And Keats

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A Comparison of Blake, Wordsworth and Keats

William Blake, John Keats and William Wordsworth all believe in the "depth" of the world and the possibilities of the human heart. However, each poet looks towards different periods in time to capture meaning in life. Blake looks towards the future for his inspiration, Keats towards the present and Wordsworth towards the past. Regardless of where each poet looks for their inspiration they are all looking for the same thing; timeless innocence. Each poet sought to transcend time by creating works that dealt with life, death, hope and imagination and to discover some kind of deep truth or meaning in existence. Life and death is an issue that we will all have to deal with at some point in our life and like all Romantics they sought to give it meaning.

To say that Blake looked towards the future in his poetry would be correct but would not be entirely accurate. Yes, Blake did look towards the future but more specifically he looked at the change of a person's soul from innocence to experience. Blake was most interested in the maturing process that one's goes through in life as they grow older. The growth from the naпve and innocent lamb to the sophisticated and experienced tiger is what we will eventually have to happen if we hope to survive in the world of experience.

Blake sees the move from innocence to experience similarly to the encroachment of the city into nature. Whereas nature would seem to be its own all encompassing world he understands that the city is not and eventually it will intrude on the country life regardless of whether it is ready for it or not. Blake uses this encroachment as metaphor for how the world of experience moves in on the child during adolescents. Though experience is often harsh, cold and violent it is a nessesary evil and it is a necessary balance to innocence.

Blake was not born wealthy and thus has a very realist outlook on life and understands that it is a sink or swim kind of world. The past can never be changed, and for those on the bottom level of the social ladder the present can be quite harsh. Looking toward the future is a natural way for Blake to approach poetry because looking ahead is what he has always done. He knows that eventually we will all move to the world of experience if we want to survive and that is why he looks towards the future.

Unlike Blake, William Wordsworth was born into an affluent family and was formally educated from the age of eight when he was sent to Hawkshead after his mother's death. Wordsworth finds himself looking toward the past to escape the troubled present and to gain back some of the happiness that he used to have when he was a child. His concern is that of the loss of one's inner child and the lack of purity of happiness that a child has. Wordsworth's accepts the fact that he is experienced now and that he can never fully return to the "lamb" but he believes that by reconnecting with his memories and nature he could comfort himself.

Nature was the most influential form of creative inspiration for Wordsworth, as he would venture out on walks for days or weeks since the time he was a teenager. He believed that there was more wisdom contained in the music of a woodland linnet than there was in any book. The wisdom that Wordsworth found so appealing in nature was the same wisdom that he found in a youthful child that was not yet turned into a tiger. Wordsworth believed that nature reflected the innocent ignorance of a child that knew nothing of hate and fear but knew only of peace and love and was one with its surroundings.

Wordsworth did not believe that Science could teach a person as much as nature because "our meddling intellect Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things... [and] we murder to dissect". The notion of killing something that one wanted to learn more about troubled Wordsworth and left him, at best skeptical about the Sciences. He believed that watching life spontaneously occur in the woods could teach a person more about the morality of good and evil than a book. Nature has timeless quality to it even though it is perpetually evolving and changing. Technological advancement and social "progress" were steps backwards for Wordsworth and thus he looked to the past for his inspiration.

John Keats did not have the luxury time that Wordsworth had to look to the past and reminisce about things that were because he knew he did not have long to live. Even from a young age Keats felt his life would be a short one and he so "he applied himself to his art with a desperate urgency". Keats died at twenty-six years old and managed to leave behind some of the greatest poetry ever written. He didn't bother to look toward the future because he knew that he wouldn't live to see it and he didn't look to the past because he decided that it was more important to live in the moment.

Keats was very aware of his own mortality and his poetry reflected the intensity and the passion of a man who didn't have very long to live. His poetry remains some of the densest prose ever penned because, like his brief existence, he had to condense so much life into so little space. The thought of impending death would be enough to make anyone fall into hopeless despair but Keats's incredible talents and commitment to live in the moment perhaps allowed him to three lifetimes.

"The Chimney Sweeper" is a quintessential Blake poem as it embodies his belief in looking towards the future for hope and comfort. Additionally, the poem is a perfect example of a child's movement from innocence to experience. The young narrator was forced into the dangerous and grueling labor as a very young boy, before he "could scarcely cry "'weep! 'weep! 'weep!". He saw Tom Dacre crying when his hair was shaved and offered him comfort by telling him that it was better that way because "the soot cannot spoil your white hair". Blake compares the young boy's curly hair to that of the hair on a lamb's back and thus makes the connection between innocence and experience. The young Tom Dacre symbolizes innocence as he is the lamb and our young narrator symbolizes experience as he accepts his situation and does not seem to be upset by it.

When the young Tom Dacre went to sleep that night he had a fantastic dream "that thousand of sweepers...locked up in coffins of black" were set free by an angel with a key. The "coffins of black" symbolize the world of experience that restricts the children both in terms of youthful innocence and actual length of life. After being freed by the angel they run "Down a green plain, leaping, laughing ... and wash in a river and shine in the sun".



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