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William Blake

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William Blake

William Blake was born November 28, 1757, in London, England. He was best known as an English poet, visionary, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake's work is today considered important and significant in the history of both poetry and the visual arts. He was voted 38th in a poll of the 100 Greatest Britons organized by the BBC in 2002.

Blake was the third of seven children, who consisted of one girl and six boys, two of whom died in infancy. Blake's father, James, was a hosier. He never attended school, being educated at home by his mother. The Bible was an early and large influence on Blake, and would remain a source of inspiration throughout his life. Blake’s father purchased him antiques and Blake began to engrave Greek drawings. His parents realized regular school was not for him, so they sent him to take drawing classes. He studied subjects that interested him, and he soon began to study and write poetry.

On 4 August 1772, Blake became apprenticed to engraver James Basire of Great Queen Street, for the term of seven years. At the age of 21, he was to become a professional engraver. In 1778, 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. During this time, Blake was getting over a relationship that had ended in a refusal of his marriage proposal. Blake married Catherine on August 18 1782 in St. Mary's Church, Battersea. His wife Catherine was illiterate and on her wedding document she signed it with the letter “x.” Blake taught Catherine to read and write and also to engrave

In 1788, at the age of 31, Blake began to try relief etching, a method he used to produce most of his books, paintings, pamphlets and his poems, including his longer 'prophecies' and his masterpiece the "Bible". Blake and Catherine’s marriage lasted until death. They had few arguments including the problem of having children, and Catherine being illiterate.

Around 1800 Blake moved to a cottage at Felpham in Sussex to take up a job for William Hayley, a minor poet. In this cottage Blake wrote Milton: a Poem which was published between 1805 and 1808. On the day of his death, Blake worked on his Dante series. Blake ceased while working and turned to his wife, who was crying by his bedside. Blake is said to have cried, "Stay Kate! Keep just as you are вЂ" I will draw your portrait вЂ" for you have ever been an angel to me." Blake was buried five days after his death, at Dissenter's burial ground in Bunhill Fields.

The two poems I chose to study were The Tyger and The Lamb. The first poem was the tyger. The poem starts with the speaker asking a tiger what made it. "What immortal hand or eye/ Could frame they fearful symmetry?" Each line contains questions, all of which refine this first one. From where could the tiger’s eyes have come, and who would have dared to handle that fire? The speaker wonders how, once that horrible heart "began to beat," its creator would have had the courage to continue the job. He compares the creator to a blacksmith. And when the job was done, the speaker wonders, how would the creator have felt? "Did he smile his work to see?" Could this possibly be the same being who made the lamb? The Tyger was a poem based on creation and so was the lamb.

The lamb begins with the question, "Little Lamb, who made thee?” A child asks the lamb about its birth: how it came into life. The speaker attempts a riddle to answer his own question: the lamb was made by one who "calls himself a Lamb," one who resembles in his gentleness both the child and the lamb. The poem ends with the child placing a blessing on the lamb.

In William Blake’s poems The Tyger and The Lamb, Blake contrasts the creation of a peaceful lamb and a firer tiger, by questioning the creator. In each poem, it talks about how things change when you get older, then how things are as a child. It’s questioning as an adult why things have to get hard, compared to a child when you have little to worry about. The Tyger is one of Blake’s famous poems. It’s about an innocence in Blake’s book is characterized by the trustfulness and spiritual resilience of childhood. (Derek Furr, an overview of “The Tyger”, in poetry for students, Gale 1997)

“What he hammer? What the chain in the furnace was thy brain?” (Tyger)

In Blake’s poem the Tyger, it’s all about asking questions. Questions that you are overwhelmed



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