July 22, 2011

The Others - William Blake

Known for both his poetry but also his paintings, William Blake is one of my favorite writers not only because his poems are so beautifully composed, but also due to the fact that he touches the imagination inside the reader.

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

Admittedly I only knew Blake through his poetry at first and the first encounter I had with any of his work was through the wonderful Auguries of Innocence. Many years later I got a brief glimpse into his work as a painter too while watching Red Dragon where "The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun" made its dramatic and edible appearance. In case the edible part makes you question my sanity (or my knowledge of the English language), I may suggest you watch the movie to find out more.

William Blake in an 1807 portrait by Thomas Phillips

Granted, I'm usually not someone who'll read a whole lot of poetry, but then there are some poets whose work I more than appreciate and cherrish.
Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered an important figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His poetry is often prophetic and full of symbolism, sparking with expressiveness and creativity, and shows philosophical and mystical undercurrents. He abhorred slavery and believed in racial and sexual equality which shows in several of his poems and paintings which express a notion of universal humanity. Reverent of the Bible but hostile to the Church of England, Blake's attacks on conventional religion were shocking in his day though it was not a rejection of religion per se. His protestation against dogmatic religion is especially notable in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell where he reveals the Proverbs of Hell.

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
The hours of folly are measur'd by the clock, but of wisdom: no clock can measure.

While Blake's text has been interpreted in many ways, it certainly forms part of the revolutionary culture of the period of the Romatic Age. If you want to read more on the poet there is plenty of literature to choose from. One book I read earlier this year, and reviewed here on my blog, is My Business Is To Create (Eric G. Wilson) which deals with the creative process and is a must-read for every writer.


  1. I think sometimes it is imperative to go back to some poetry inbetween so many novels... I will always remember Blake's stanza, the one you quoted first, because it was part of the exam I sat during my second year of college :)

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