The beginning of this series is here.
Of all the Romantic poets, William Blake is the closest to my heart. Ever since I first read Northrop Frye’s Fearful Symmetry, Blake has been a living presence, a thinker who continues to provide a large part of the framework of how I see the world, an artist whose colours and verse I notice everywhere. I remember sitting at my desk in Damascus, copying out The Marriage of Heaven and Hell line by line, puzzling over certain unexpected prepositions.
But the purpose of this post is more simple: to introduce his poetry and thought, and to relate him to the other Romantics. Blake worked through the “Romantic problem” that I described in my post on Shelley, producing a solution that remains just as psychologically penetrating for artists today.
Here is an introduction to Blake’s thought, starting at first principles and expanding onwards into art, the self, tradition and independence, science and perception, tyranny and freedom, psychology and religion. Each point is numbered, and this is my numbering system, not Blake’s, intended as an easy way to get a grip on this sometimes hyper-cryptic poet. Even this brief list should give some sense of why I, and so many others, find Blake such a great inspiration and support.