Tag Archive: Blake


“Lions, and Tyger’s and Bears.”

 

 

Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion. (1)
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God. (2)
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God. (3)
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God. (4)

In the very first line of this poem are metaphors that are quite cunning. As one can see, Blake did not hold back when it came to calling out the hypocrisy of which the state and church contained. Using irony, he shows the backward system of both Law and Religion -law is supposed to step in to prevent the further demise of deviant behavior so as to prevent the further imprisonment of the members of society; while religion is supposed to intervene and prevent the moral decline of its people. Instead, there is a greed filled profit to be made in both circumstances. In the following three lines he does a few things: he mentions emotion; he uses animal symbols; and he uses several key representation of God. Line 2’s Peacock symbol represents immortality -thus saying God’s glory is eternal. Line 3’s Goat represents bountifulness, indicating God will always provide. And, finally, Line 4’s Lion, represents that absolute leadership. One has to question why he would place these lines under the very first one, where he is revealing the greed that exists. The dichotomy in that was probably his goal. We see this throughout the rest of the poem.

 

 

The nakedness of woman is the work of God. (5)
Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps. (6)
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man. (8)

In line 5, “the nakedness of the woman” indicates the actual human condition; but it is interesting, and should be noted that Blake chose to use the woman gender to represent such work. Perhaps he wanted to indicate that women are, in fact, the actual creators/carriers of other humans, and in addition, should not be demonized with regard to their connection to Eve. Again, just like line 1, line 5 stands out from lines 6, 7, and 8 where Blake speaks through emotional and physical attributes, and uses irony: “Excess of sorrow laughs/excess of joy weeps.” The three lines that follow imply the truth: that God does see all that occurs in the world; His power is too intense for others to want to recognize; therefore, they hide behind their lies.

 

The fox condemns the trap, not himself. (9)
Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth. (10)
Let man wear the fell of the lion, woman the fleece of the sheep. (11)
The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship. (12)

Because Foxes are known for being clever, line 9 could represent the marginalized group of people whom are being set up to fail amongst society. Lines 10 shows a before and after affect: first there is joy, later there is sorry that follows, as with most things in life. Lines 11, and 12 creates the idea that we should live our lives the way that we want, in order to create harmony.

 

The selfish smiling fool, & the sullen frowning fool, shall be both thought wise, that they may be a rod.
What is now proved was once only imagin’d.
The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbit: watch the roots; the lion, the tyger, the horse, the elephant, watch the fruits.
The cistern contains; the fountain overflows.
One thought, fills immensity.
Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.
Every thing possible to be believ’d is an image of truth.
The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.

 

The line that sums up the point of Blake’s message is that when he says: “Always be ready to speak your mind.” Blake’s use of nature and animals is a device where he wanted to use the most organic constructs to convey his message about truth.  -Marcy Martinez

 

 

 

Advertisements

Natural Genius

Blake creates the idea that experience is not something anybody can gain with just age, that someone who is younger not just in life, but skill could outdo an older, more “experienced” person’s Genius. Blake mentions “The hours of folly are measured by the clock, but of wisdom; no clock can measure.” Folly is foolishness; to lack common sense, and according to Blake, it can be measured by a clock. Though Genius could also be considered wisdom and that it cannot be measured because of how once enough people admire your work, it would end up going down in history.

According to Blake’s proverbs, foolishness can be measured by time, which in a sense can mean that there is an end to it. That even though people may remember a certain foolish event, it will never become memorable enough to last throughout time. Taking into consideration Blake’s craftsmen skills and his skills as a writer, he intends this proverb to imply how it depends on one’s natural Genius to make their work immeasurable by time, and to not copy other people’s Genius because that is one’s “folly.”

“The Aftermath”

“The Chimney Sweeper” (Songs of Innocence and Experience)

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ‘Weep! weep! weep! weep!’
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.

There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved; so I said,
‘Hush, Tom! never mind it, for, when your head’s bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.’

And so he was quiet, and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight!–
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.

And by came an angel, who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins, and set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.

Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind;
And the angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father, and never want joy.

And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark,
And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm:
So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

 

“The Chimney Sweeper” (Songs of Experience)

 

A little black thing among the snow,

Crying ” ‘weep! ‘weep!” in notes of woe!

“Where are thy father and mother? say?”—

“They are both gone up to the church to pray.

“Because I was happy upon the heath,

And smiled among the winter’s snow,

They clothed me in the clothes of death,

And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

“And because I am happy and dance and sing,

They think they have done me no injury,

And are gone to praise God and his Priest and King,

Who make up a heaven of our misery.”

 

Both versions of the poem “The Chimney Sweeper” are tragic; except the version from Songs of Innocence, amidst its sadness, tugs at one’s heart because it reveals the hope the narrator -the little boy- has in regards to his terrible circumstance.  In the first stanza we learn that he was sold into labor as a chimney sweeper, and apparently quite young as he indicates he could barely understand what was going to happen to him: “And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ‘Weep! weep! weep! weep!’”  In the following stanzas, the narrator seems to have taken on a parental role towards the other chimney sweepers, attempting to comfort them as they perhaps are just entering that occupation; while, the narrator is, at this point, already well versed with the job duties.  Some of his words of comfort explain what sort of things they had to endure, such as the shaving of their hair, and/or it could indicate the toll -hair loss- chimney sweeping was taking on them.  He tells the other little boy, “‘Hush, Tom! never mind it, for, when your head’s bare,You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.’”  As the poem continues, the narrator’s voice returns to the reader, conveying wishful thinking, as they indicate that all the tragedy and darkness will once again return to light and hope; unfortunately, it also reveals that such a reality, is in fact not one.  It would only happen when they die, and have gone to heaven.

And, thus death is what is now brought into the picture with the second version of the poem, as in death of hope.  However, the narrator -a little boy’s voice, once again- is responding to another’s voice who has, essentially, asked him where his parents are.  The voice then replies with a bitter response.  The child seems angry and betrayed by his parents whom -as told in the original poem, first stanza- have sold him off as a chimney sweeper.  His anger seems also seems to be also towards God, as he says, “And are gone to praise God and his Priest and King,Who make up a heaven of our misery.”  One could infer that, as opposed to the first version of the poem, where the narrator tries to instill a glimmer of hope in the other children’s minds, that a vast amount of time must have passed up to this point.  It seems as though the act of dreaming or wishing or praying is no longer an option.  He has come to accept his doom.  On the other hand, it could also represent the moment in which he was originally sold off; where he too is full of grief, like the “Tom” he tries to comfort in the first poem.

-Marcy Martinez

In two poems, William Blake shows how God creates Hope, but religion creates despair.

In William Blake’s The Songs of Innocence and Experience, I believe there are two poems that are linked by a loose thread. To find the link, one must employ equal parts close reading skill, knowledge of the historical cultural moment, and mental gymnastics. The link is so fine, so ephemeral and fleeting, that it is difficult to place the works into conversation, let alone open a discourse on their intertextuality. I speak of course of The Chimney Sweeper from The Songs of Innocence and The Chimney Sweeper from The Songs of ExperienceThe casual reader will invariably look at the titles of these two works and fail to see how they can possibly be placed in conversation with one another when their subject matter is so far removed. To this I cry “Folly!” I then put away my sarcasm, and begin my analysis of these two poems in earnest.

To contextualize: chimney sweeps’ apprentices, as they were formally called, were young children, often in single digit age brackets. These boys were unpaid laborers who were fed by their masters, and tasked with climbing into chimneys. The work conditions were such that they often perished.

The Chimney Sweeper (Innocence) looks at this profession with interesting optimism. The poem appears to tell the story of a boy named Tom who is visited by an Angel and is shown the coffins of thousands of dead children. This is, of course, a good thing. Consider the following truncated version:

As Tom was sleeping he had such a sight.
That thousands of sweepers Dick, Joe, Ned & Jack
Were all of them lock’d up in coffins of black,
And by came an Angel who had a bright key
And he open’d the coffins & set them all free
And the Angel told Tom if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father & never want joy.
Tho’ the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.  (Blake 18)

This truncated version exemplifies the idea that there is joy and hope to be found in God. It is an optimistic text that reminds the reader that thanks to God, even the barbarism of child slavery that results in death can have a happy ending. Thus, The Chimney Sweeper of Innocence equates God with Hope.

The idea that God creates Hope is complicated by The Chimney Sweeper of Experience. The second poem creates, in lieu of the optimism and hope of God, the dread and despair of religion. The poem is markedly darker, and there is less focus on God and more focus on religion. The church has created the monsters, by preaching the ideal that “If all do their duty, they need not fear harm” (18). The adults that should be caring for and protecting this young boy “are gone to praise God & his Priest & King Who make up a heaven of our misery” (35). For symmetry, gaze upon the truncated version.

Where are thy father & mother? say?
They are both gone up to church to pray.
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
They think they have done me no injury:
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King
Who make up a heaven of our misery. (35).

It is, therefore, God who creates hope, but Religion that allows despair.

 

Ross Koppel

blake 1

The boy’s mama loved him so she set him down;
Laid him low with the lonely lamb.
He stroke the lamb’s face that wears the frown,
The face of one who is afraid of brutal man.
The lamb’s white wool clean and bright
Like his fair and youthful skin, light.
He comforts him on the soft green mat,
Exchanging looks where they sat.

Fear falls from the lamb’s familiar eyes.
A fierce flame fading in his chest.
Yet in darkness, a light falls from the sky
And then he knew the lamb was blessed.
He was opened with opened arms.
The lamb entered with innocent charms,
He removed the soot from his hooves,
Renewed his corrupted youth.

blake 2

The boy said, “Little lamb how you weep,
Weep you do for thy mama.
She wishes for you to sleep
And drift away from the trauma.
You can sleep in peace now still young.
Just imagine and nothing will go wrong.
Look up into the night
The stars cannot hinder your sight.”

The lamb speaks to him of angels
From a faraway Kingdom
Hidden in clouds behind the hills
And there they shall find freedom.
The boy said, “Look little lamb,
You and I will find a plan
We’ll find this house from above
We’ll find the hidden love.”

blake 3

Now with the holy words in his mouth
He pranced, he dance, and he sang with joy.
He shared the words of the Lord about the path
But the grown men laughed because he was but a boy.
They say there was no way to get away
But they cannot stay in a place of darkening gray.
Laugh and laugh they laughed on.
He walked away until the laughter has gone.

blake 4

The boy and the lamb slept and wept
As they drifted they heard a choir of voices.
Angels carried them to the Kingdom and they leapt.
They stood in the man’s forgiving hands and rejoice.
Shut eyes keep them sheltered;
Their hearts filtered.
“Little lamb, how the stars align
Little lamb, this is the world of divine.”

 

I noted the recurrence of the lamb and to my interpretation, the little lamb represented youth and the innocence of youth. Whenever a poem referred to a lamb, I imagine it to be a boy. Blake reveals an array of ideas about innocence and childhood and somehow the presence of the lamb in many of the poems stood out to me. Lambs are symbolic of children in many ways. The color of the lamb represents purity which is almost always attributed to children. They are innocent and know no evil. In my work above, the character role of the boy and the lamb is interchangeable and the effects will be the same in my opinion. I attempt at ending it with the ambiguity of the status of the boy similar to the way Blake leaves us thinking whether a death has occurred. Is he dead? Or is it simply wishful thinking? Blake somehow makes it seem as if the only way to reach the divine is through tragic, which is a scary thought.

– Van Vang

s-inn.b.p14-6.100.jpg

Our bodies were warm in the sun of morn,

As the other kids began to tease out my name.

“What a dork; he still needs mommy’s permission.”

 

Tugging on her arm, I cried, “please mama,”

Her gaze went over my head, “it is not up to me

“Child. Ask your father. And take your brother.”

s-inn.b.p12-10.100.jpg

“Alright. It’s your turn! I had to ask mom”

“Aw man. That’s no fair.”

I budged his arm as we approached him.

 

“Oh, uh hi dad. Can Willie and I go watch—”

“Hello children. Where are your clothes?”

We looked down at each other, “oh yeah, weird.”

 

“Anyways dad, Blake wanted to ask you something…”

He shook his attention back to Blake’s eyes, grabbing him, “yes?”

Blake pleaded, “can we please watch the old geezer play at the hill?”

 

Father looked over at me, at my nakedness.

“Oh, right,” I came to, “we’ll put on clothes before going.”

He laughed as he nodded and played with Blake’s chubby arms.

s-inn.b.p13-54.100.jpg

“Hey uh Blake… is it just me or does this guy kind of suck?”

He looked around at the crowd, “yeah. He’s kind of terrible. But

“why is everyone so into him?” He kept his watch on the crowd.

 

“I dunno. Maybe it’s an adult thing or something. I just can’t seem to—

“WAIT A MINUTE. BLAKE! CHECK OUT THIS DUDES BEARD!”

He glanced over furiously, “where? Woah! That’s thing is awesome.”

 

I chose these images because they fit my narrative well–not to say my story was already set in stone before looking for them, but I had a general sense of how I wanted it to go. I wouldn’t take it extremely serious because the prompt didn’t ask to mimic Blake’s writing or tones. I wanted to illustrate the feelings of innocence by offering the story through the perspective of a child and his little brother wanting to fit in with the other kids. Ironically enough, I used a poetic form because I saw others do it as such. I would have preferred writing a short story in prose, but I figured since everyone else was doing poetry, my Genius would get scolded; and that’s why my story doesn’t read much like a poem or song.

–Daniel Lizaola Lopez

Before finding inner peace, I was lost.

Where can I venture to find peace within myself?

Along the path I see nothing but darkness,

My feet feel as if they are becoming one with the ground.

Never to move again.

 

Will I be forever trapped in this pit of darkness?

This realm of shadows filled with nothing but looming darkness,

The trees that hang o’er me seem to be closing in.

The little boy los

What is that light?

Do not leave me, allow me to wander with you.

I just want to follow you, let me see the light.

I do not want to be lost anymore.

s-inn.b.p1-2.100

Where am I now?

I can see more than I did before.

Are you the light I found?

Are you the one to guide me to the true light?

s-inn.z.p8-10.100

Please father, even with my sun burnt skin,

Allow me into your arms, allow me into your light.

Why is it impossible for you to accept me?

Why does the color of my skin matter?

 

Simply because his skin is fairer than mine,

He is allowed into your warm arms?

I thought you were all accepting?

It seems you are all accepting of fair skinned lambs,

For I am only a dark skinned lamb.

 

I decided to write a short poem/story about religion and acceptance because religion is supposed to be all around accepting. Though I began to think about cases where it might not be true. Like in slavery for instance, from the moment they were born, they were taught that they belong to people; people of fairer skin. We all share “one” God, but from the slave’s point of view, it probably seemed like the people who “owned” them, had life better than they did. They were able to roam free and enjoy the light, while the slaves continued living confined by chains and beaten by their “owners.” I incorporated mainly Eden and childhood in my short poem/story in the sense that the light the lost black lamb wanted to enter was his Eden. While with childhood, I chose to use lamb in the sense of a follower; a child of God, except in this case, he was rejected as a child of God.

-Anderson Tang

A Child Sleeps

Alexander the Great squirmed in his sheets,

His mother over him beckoning him to sleep

He closed his eyes and tried to dream

Of pleasant hills and glistening streams

 

His mother thought him an Angel mild,

“Dreaming of kisses, fairies, sunshine, sweet child”

On his face innocence had dreamt

Though not of nice things, as his mother had meant

 

William Blake 1

 

He had seen the fields, the sunshine, true,

And in them townspeople, having fun as they do

The boys laughed, and play took away their cares

While the women sat under a tree and braided hair

 

Little Alex looked at all the echoing green

And thought if only in his dream his mother could see

He thought maybe he’d take this land, and the next

So his mother could see this land’s best

 

And then he’d resolved in that night’s slumber

To lead an army to great East to plunder

And bring back the gifts he’d once seen in his dream

To his mother’s eyes, to be her reality

William Blake 2

 

“How sweet he dreams!” his mother wept,

“Such innocence in this heavenly infant!”

And she waited till the morn’ when he stirred

Her eyes transfixed on God’s great gift to her

 

When dawn broke, so did Morpheus’ spell

And Alexander awoke, his cries like a bell

His mother’s face then broke into meek smiles

Heaven & earth to peace beguiles.

William Blake 3

This short poem relates back to Blake’s themes of innocence and experience, because the protagonist is an innocent infant, though, as we all know, a leader of the Macedonian Empire. I wanted to play with the notions of innocence and heaven, as is common in Blake’s poetry, comparing little Alexander to an angel. Experience, also plays a part here, as Alexander is already having motives unlike his mother had perceived: he sees the people happy and the land great, and instead of marveling at it, he dreams of taking it for himself. I wanted to also give an innocent intention behind this though—I didn’t want Alexander to come across as an anti-Christ child who in infancy already thinks of destruction—I wanted to give him a realistic motive as a child. He wants to bring back the things he’s seen to his mother.

-Sara Nuila-Chae

 

 

 

by Bradley Dexter Christian

The graffiti alluding to artistic expression in biblical passages can be described as an aesthetic challenge to authentical representation of Blake’s views, particularly when affronted by Sir Joshua Reynolds’ virtue ethics.

Graffiti itself is an art under fire, living on the fringes of mass appeal and commercial replicability.  “A mere copier of nature can never produce any thing great; can never raise and enlarge the conceptions or warm the heart of the spectator,” (Reynolds 41). Juvenile youth impacting rates of recidivism are presented this very challenge of overcoming the mimetic circumstances of participating in gang culture and street violence. Reynolds’ idealistic language in Discourses III indicates the performative ‘spectator’ and places her in the coliseum of ‘great’ artistic represent. Blake responds to such institutionalized facets of moral life. Given the background of Royal Society in the eighteenth century, Reynolds’ intention is to reaffirm dignity in the arts while aligning political themes of dominance in the historical Napoleonic wars, “The principle now laid down, that the perfection of this art does not consist in mere imitation, is far from being new or singular,” (Reynolds 42). Blake replaces Reynolds’ valuations with a responsive, monastic knowledge in imitation of the plight of the Israelites for developing a theological response in “The Lacoon.”

“Experience is all in all; but it is not every one who profits by experience; and most people err […] from not knowing what object to pursue. This great ideal perfection and beauty are not to be sought in the heavens but upon earth,” (Reynolds 44). Blake reconsiders Reynolds’ absolutism of experience as philosophical sleight.

File Jan 23, 11 16 51 PM

 

“As none by travelling over known lands can find out the unknown, So

from already acquired knowledge Man could not acquire more. Therefore an universal Poetic Genius already exists.” -Blake

Blake’s perspective on Genius and of art seems to be a very natural one -one that does not require higher forms of schooling.  Perhaps is own personal experience in having a acquired a natural craft for art, as well as having been sent to a local art school has a lot to do with his perspective.  I believe that his upbringing with parents whom supported Blake’s endeavors with a humble hand, also had much to do with Blake’s modest ways.  His thoughts, noted in the passage above, are that no individual need to seek much more than what is already innately within them to be considered a genius.  Conversely, Reynolds speaks of different levels of artistic steps one must take to attain a true genius eye: “I recommend the diligent study of the works of our great predecessors: but I at the same time endeavored to guard them against an implicit submission to the authority of any one master however excellent.”  While, Reynolds does want art students to be careful of over-studying the predecessors, his point still remains that they must go through a rite of passage, so to speak, in order to reach true genius.

In Blake’s encryption, “Israel deliverd from Egypt is Art deliverd from Nature & Imitation” is reminiscent of his perspective on what it means to be a true artist, a genius.  In other words,  Egypt, assuming it was a beautifully constructed land, was ironically constructed by the hands of slaves, the Israelites.  Henceforth, they were the artists, and Blake uses that deplorable historical experience to point out that while the construction was a beautiful sight, it was done so through imitation -imitation, being what the slaves were forced to come up with by means of their aggressor.  This encryption does two things: it goes against Reynold’s Utopian perception of the genius, and it brings up a political and religious injustice. I feel as though he is also exposing the hypocrisy in that of art.  When a piece of art gets in the hands of the elite, they consume it and greed begins to take over.  The art becomes something it was not intended to be in the first place.

-Maricela Martinez (Marcy)