Presentation on theme: "Lecture 11 William Blake. Part one Introduction of William Blake 1.1. Life: William Blake, born on 28 November 1757, was the son of a London hosier, The."— Presentation transcript:
Lecture 11 William Blake
Part one Introduction of William Blake 1.1. Life: William Blake, born on 28 November 1757, was the son of a London hosier, The boy never went to school. He picked up his education as well as he could, his favourite studies in early days were Shakespeare, Milton and Chatterton, the "marvellous boy" who wrote "The Rowley Papers". At the age of 14, he was apprenticed to an engraver. After leaving him, Blake began to earn his living as an engraver of illustrations for various publishers. His illustrations” for Young's Night Thoughts", Gray’s poems and the Book of Job show him a great artist with a style of his own. But he was never prosperous in this business and remained poor all his life. In 1782, he married Catherine Boucher, an illiterate girl. Blake taught her to read and to help him in engraving. Catherine proved an excellent wife, sympathizing with his work and sharing in it. In 1827, Blake died in obscurity and poverty.
William Blake was a transitional figure in British literature. He was the one of the first writers of the "Romantic Period." Before this period, most writers, such as Alexander Pope, wrote more for form instead of for content. Blake, on the other hand, turned back to Elizabethan and early seventeenth-century poets, and other eighteenth- century poets outside the tradition of Pope.
In 1788, at the age of thirty-one, Blake began to experiment with relief etching, which was the method used to produce most of his books of poems. He called this method "illuminated printing." He wrote the text of his poems on copper plates with pens and brushes, using an acid-resistant medium. The illustrations were also drawn onto the plates. He then etched the plates in acid in order to eat away the untreated copper and leave the design standing. The pages printed from these plates then had to be colored by hand in water colors and stiched together to make up a volume. Blake used illuminated printing for four of his works. These included "Songs of Innocence and Experience," "The Book of Thel," "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," and "Jerusalem."
1.2. Major Works “Songs of Innocence” (1789) and “ Songs of Experience” ( 1794): The best of Blake's short poems is to be found in these two little collections of lyrics. “Songs of Innocence” contain poems which were apparently written for children. Using a language which even little babies can learn by heart, Blake succeeded in depicting the happy condition of a child before it knows anything about pains of existence. The poet expresses his delight in the sun, the hills, the streams, the insects and the flowers, in the innocence of the child and of the lamb. Here everything seems to be in harmony.
In “Songs of Experience”, a much maturer work. entirely different themes are to be found, for in this collection of poems the poet drew pictures of neediness and distress and showed the sufferings of the miserable. The will to freedom must endure, for a time, the limitations of worldly experience, and salvation is said to come through passion; the revolt, through revolution. The poet was conscious of some blind hand crushing the life of man, as man crushes the fly. The Contrast between "Songs of Innocence” and Songs of Experience" is of great significance; it marks a progress in the poet's outlook on life. In the earlier collection there seem to be no shadows. To the poet's eyes, the first glimpse of the world was a picture of light, harmony, peace and love. But in the later years, experience had brought a fuller sense of the power of evil and of the great misery and pain of the people's life.
Part Two Excerpts of Poems 2.1. THE LITTLE BLACK BOY My mother bore me in the southern wild, And I am black, but oh my soul is white! White as an angel is the English child, But I am black, as if bereaved of light. My mother taught me underneath a tree, And, sitting down before the heat of day, She took me on her lap and kissed me, And, pointed to the east, began to say:
"Look on the rising sun: there God does live, And gives His light, and gives His heat away, And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive Comfort in morning, joy in the noonday. "And we are put on earth a little space, That we may learn to bear the beams of love And these black bodies and this sunburnt face Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove. "For when our souls have learn'd the heat to bear, The cloud will vanish, we shall hear His voice, Saying, 'Come out from the grove, my love and care And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice',"
Thus did my mother say, and kissed me; And thus I say to little English boy. When I from black and he from white cloud free, And round the tent of God like lambs we joy I'll shade him from the heat till he can bear To lean in joy upon our Father's knee; And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair, And be like him, and he will then love me.
Summary A black child tells the story of how he came to know his own identity and to know God. The boy, who was born in “the southern wild” of Africa, first explains that though his skin is black his soul is as white as that of an English child. He relates how his loving mother taught him about God who lives in the East, who gives light and life to all creation and comfort and joy to men. “We are put on earth,” his mother says, to learn to accept God’s love. He is told that his black skin “is but a cloud” that will be dissipated when his soul meets God in heaven. The black boy passes on this lesson to an English child, explaining that his white skin is likewise a cloud. He vows that when they are both free of their bodies and delighting in the presence of God, he will shade his white friend until he, too, learns to bear the heat of God’s love. Then, the black boy says, he will be like the English boy, and the English boy will love him.
Form The poem is in heroic quatrains, which are stanzas of pentameter lines rhyming ABAB. The form is a variation on the ballad stanza, and the slightly longer lines are well suited to the pedagogical tone of this poem.
Analysis of the Poem Blake believed in equality for all men, and this is reflected in this poem. It may not be immediately obvious that this is the case, as the narrative in the first stanza plays upon the traditional stereotypes of "black" and "white", black being the color that denotes evil and sin, - "black, as if beareav'd of light" - and white being the color that denotes innocence and purity. It becomes clear over the course of the poem, however, that Blake had a deeper message to convey to his reader. "The Little Black Boy" was published in 1789, a time when slavery was still legal and the campaign for the abolition of slavery was still young. In "The Little Black Boy", Blake questions conventions of the time with basic Christian ideals. This becomes apparent in the third stanza, where Blake uses the sun as a metaphor for God and His Kingdom: "Look on the rising sun: there God does live,". This line is particularly important, as the reference to the sun not only introduces the running religious metaphor in the subsequent stanzas, but the fact that it is "rising" denotes change.
In accordance with the running metaphor of the sun, the fact that Blake speaks of "black bodies" and a "sunburnt face" in the fourth stanza seems to imply that black people are near God as a result of their suffering – for one can only become dark and sunburned as a result of being exposed to the sun's rays. In the final stanza this idea is developed further, as the black boy says that he will "shade him [the English boy] from the heat", this implies that the English boy's pale skin is not used to the heat (derived from God's love) – some critics assert that the paleness of the English boy in this poem is symbolic of the fact that the English were distanced from God as a result of their treatment of the black peoples. In the 5th stanza, we see all of humanity being united: For when our souls have learn'd the heat to bear, The cloud will vanish... In the 6th stanza this metaphor is continued: When I from black and he from white cloud free, Here, Blake uses the clouds as a metaphor for the human body. These stanzas therefore imply that after physical life has passed, all will be united with God.
Also notable in this poem is Blake's use of politically neutral colours such as gold and silver when describing things of moral value. The most valuable things in life, in terms of spirituality and wisdom are anointed with colours that are indifferent to race and social class, yet are related to financial status, as gold and silver evoke images of precious metals. In this child-monologue Blake's treatment of the little black boy's perspective on Christianity and salvation may well be ironic, forming the basis for a more savage attack on religious and social hypocrisy. The child's mother consoles the child with a vision of a better life to come, away from the prejudices and hardship of this life, and the child accepts this, encouraging him to a further vision of leading (rather than being led by) the little white English boy to God and Heaven. The mother's teaching may itself be a form of 'innocence', and the boy's vision of a Heaven, transcending the divisions of race, is certainly 'innocent'. The central question the poem raises, like Holy Thursday (Innocence) is what Blake's attitude is towards the child's (and the mother's) attitudes: does he see them as touchingly naive, or tragically misguided? Throughout the poem, in the references to 'black' and 'white', Blake plays around with the traditional associations between 'white' and 'good', but also, in the little black boy's views on Soul/Body, makes the point that colour is skin deep, but colour is no indication of spiritual state. The poem should, perhaps, be approached in the light of British attitudes towards missionaries, and arguments about the abolition of slavery in the late eighteenth century.
2.2. THE CHIMNEY-SWEEPER 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 let 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 A little black thing in 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."
2.2. Analysis of the second The first stanza is a testimony that describes the situation of a little chimney sweeper in the snow who is crying and calling for his parents while they are praying at the church. In the second and third stanzas, the child explains his situation. He describes that he had been happy and “smiled among the winter snow,” but also he was taught to suffer when he says “and taught me to sing the notes of woe.” Adults are mentioned in the poem when he questioned “Where are thy father and mother?” and when he says “God & his Priest & King.” Finally he blames “they” and adds “who make up a heaven of our misery.”
2.2.2.Analysis of the two William Blake wrote "The Chimney Sweeper" of "Songs of Innocence" in In the next to last line of the first stanza, the cry "'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!" is the child's attempt at saying "Sweep! Sweep!," which was the chimney sweeper's street cry. This poem shows that the children have a very positive outlook on life. They make the best of their lives and do not fear death. This is quite the opposite in it's companion poem in "Songs of Experience" which was written in In this poem, the child blames his parents for putting him in the position he was in. He is miserable in his situation and he also blames "God & his Priest & King". This point of view is different from that of its companion poem because the chimney sweeper has been influenced by society and has an "experienced" point of view.
For these poems, an understanding of the ideas of one poem, as well as the ideas that it lacks, illuminates the other poem. This gives the reader a different interpretation of the poem than if one of these “The Chimney Sweeper” poems would be read alone. For instance, in Songs of Innocence, the chimney sweeps are offered hope by the outcome of Tom Dacre’s dream. The narrator offers comfort that no harm or punishment will come to those who obey. Also, Tom is used to illustrate another point. He is originally frightened but later feels “happy and warm”, showing that one can experience a certain degree of happiness in the even in the worst of circumstances. These ideas of hope and happiness place further emphasis on the bitterness of the chimney sweep in Songs of Experience. He understands his circumstances and sees no hope of freedom from his oppression. Instead of believing that obedience will prevent punishment, he perceives his current circumstance as a punishment for being happy with his childhood. Also, he does not seem to endorse the Christian idea of having joy in the midst of adversity; he sees little if any reason to be happy in his miserable predicament. In fact, the God that his parents praise seems as cruel as others who allow children to be mistreated in such a way. These examples illustrate how an understanding of the themes of “The Chimney Sweeper” in Songs of Innocence can further illuminate the some of the ideas in Songs of Experience.
However, in Songs of Experience, many of the ideas are more realistic in some ways. The chimney sweeper understands that he has been placed in a situation where he is isolated from society and will almost certainly die young because of the hazards of his profession. He mentions established institutions such as the Church of England and the government in the same line with his mother and father, who think they have done no harm. These institutions could have used their power to improve life for the chimney sweeps, but they have made little if any effort to do so. The understanding that this particular sweep possess emphasizes the naivete of the speaker in “The Chimney Sweeper” of Innocence, who believes that everything will be fine if he is obedient even though his obedience will eventually cost him his own life. The naive child is more accepting of his circumstances, and the narrator himself does not seem to see anyone as being at fault but whose faith in God is a constant source of hope.
This example of the “Chimney Sweeper” poems in Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience illustrates William Blake’s view that neither naive innocence nor bitter experience is completely accurate. There is a higher state of understanding that includes both innocence and experience. Both are need to complete one another to form the more accurate view. In this case, it is an expression on the poet’s view of the political issue dealing with chimney sweeps that dominates both poems. Although the viewpoints of each poem are different, both show plight of the majority of the chimney sweepers in the cities of England, and while one endorses hope and the other bitterness, the reader must acknowledge that something needs to be done to improve life for these children.
2.3. THE TIGER Tiger, tiger, burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could Frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder and what art Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And, when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand and what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp? When the stars threw down their spears, And watered heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the lamb make thee?
Tiger, tiger, burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
2.3.1 Summary of the poem Stanza 1 Summary What immortal being created this terrifying creature which, with its perfect proportions (symmetry), is an awesome killing machine? Stanza 2 Summary Was it created in hell (distant deeps) or in heaven (skies)? If the creator had wings, how could he get so close to the fire in which the tiger was created? How could he work with so blazing a fire? Stanza 3 Summary What strength (shoulder) and craftsmanship (art) could make the tiger's heart? What being could then stand before it (feet) and shape it further (hand)?
Stanza 4 Summary What kind of tool (hammer) did he use to fashion the tiger in the forge fire? What about the chain connected to the pedal which the maker used to pump the bellows? What of the heat in the furnace and the anvil on which the maker hammered out his creation? How did the maker muster the courage to grasp the tiger? Stanza 5 Summary When the stars cast their light on the new being and the clouds cried, was the maker pleased with his creation? Stanza 6 Summary The poet repeats the the central question of the poem, stated in Stanza 1. However, he changes could (Line 4) to dare (Line 24). This is a significant change, for the poet is no longer asking who had the capability of creating the tiger but who dared to create so frightful a creature.
Analysis Type of Work and Year of Publication "The Tiger," originally called "The Tyger," is a lyric poem focusing on the nature of God and his creations. It was published in 1794 in a collection entitled Songs of Experience. Modern anthologies often print "The Tiger" alongside an earlier Blake poem, "The Lamb," published in 1789 in a collection entitled Songs of Innocence.
Meter The poem is in trochaic tetrameter with catalexis at the end of each line. Here is an explanation of these technical terms: Tetrameter Line: a poetry line usually with eight syllables. Trochaic Foot: A pair of syllables--a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. Catalexis: The absence of a syllable in the final foot in a line. In Blake’s poem, an unstressed syllable is absent in the last foot of each line. Thus, every line has seven syllables, not the conventional eight. The following illustration using the first two lines of the poem demonstrates tetrameter with four trochaic feet, the last one catalectic: TIger,..|..TIger,..|..BURN ing..|..BRIGHT IN the..|..FOR ests..|..OF the..|..NIGHT Notice that the fourth foot in each line eliminates the conventional unstressed syllable (catalexis). However, this irregularity in the trochaic pattern does not harm the rhythm of the poem. In fact, it may actually enhance it, allowing each line to end with an accented syllable that seems to mimic the beat of the maker’s hammer on the anvil. For a detailed discussion of meter and the various types of feet, click here.
Structure and Rhyme Scheme The poem consists of six quatrains. (A quatrain is a four- line stanza.) Each quatrain contains two couplets. (A couplet is a pair of rhyming lines). Thus we have a 24-line poem with 12 couplets and 6 stanzas–a neat, balanced package. The question in the final stanza repeats (except for one word, dare) the wording of the first stanza, perhaps suggesting that the question Blake raises will continue to perplex thinkers ad infinitum Figures of Speech and Allusions Alliteration: Tiger, tiger, burning bright (line 1); frame thy fearful symmetry? (line 4) Metaphor: Comparison of the tiger and his eyes to fire. Anaphora: Repetition of what at the beginning of sentences or clauses. Example: What dread hand and what dread feet? / What the hammer? what the chain? Allusion: Immortal hand or eye: God or Satan Allusion: Distant deeps or skies: hell or heaven
Symbols The Tiger: Evil (or Satan) The Lamb: Goodness (or God) Distant Deeps: Hell Skies: Heaven Themes The Existence of Evil “The Tiger” presents a question that embodies the central theme: Who created the tiger? Was it the kind and loving God who made the lamb? Or was it Satan? Blake presents his question in Lines 3 and 4: What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Blake realizes, of course, that God made all the creatures on earth. However, to express his bewilderment that the God who created the gentle lamb also created the terrifying tiger, he includes Satan as a possible creator while raising his rhetorical questions, notably the one he asks in Lines 5 and 6: In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thy eyes? Deeps appears to refer to hell and skies to heaven. In either case, there would be fire--the fire of hell or the fire of the stars Of course, there can be no gainsaying that the tiger symbolizes evil, or the incarnation of evil, and that the lamb (Line 20) represents goodness, or Christ. Blake's inquiry is a variation on an old philosophical and theological question: Why does evil exist in a universe created and ruled by a benevolent God? Blake provides no answer. His mission is to reflect reality in arresting images. A poet’s first purpose, after all, is to present the world and its denizens in language that stimulates the aesthetic sense; he is not to exhort or moralize. Nevertheless, the poem does stir the reader to deep thought. Here is the tiger, fierce and brutal in its quest for sustenance; there is the lamb, meek and gentle in its quest for survival. Is it possible that the same God who made the lamb also made the tiger? Or was the tiger the devil's work?
The Awe and Mystery of Creation and the Creator The poem is more about the creator of the tiger than it is about the tiger itself. In contemplating the terrible ferocity and awesome symmetry of the tiger, the speaker is at a loss to explain how the same God who made the lamb could make the tiger. Hence, this theme: humans are incapable of fully understanding the mind of God and the mystery of his handiwork.
THE LAMB Little Lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? Gave thee life, and bid thee feed, By the stream and o'er the mead; Gave thee clothing of delight, Softest clothing, woolly, bright; Gave thee such a tender voice, Making all the vales rejoice? Little Lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee?
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee, Little Lamb, I'll tell thee. He is called by thy name, For He calls Himself a Lamb. He is meek, and He is mild; He became a little child. I a child, and thou a lamb, We are called by His name. Little Lamb, God bless thee! Little Lamb, God bless thee!
2.4. LONDON I wandered through each chartered street, Near where the chartered Thames does flow, A mark in every face I meet, Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every man, In every infant's cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, The mind-forged manacles I hear:
How the chimney-sweeper's cry Every blackening church appalls, And the hapless soldier's sigh Runs in blood down palace-walls. But most, through midnight streets I hear How the youthful harlot's curse Blasts the new-born infant's tear, And blights with plagues the marriage-hearse.
Summary The speaker wanders through the streets of London and comments on his observations. He sees despair in the faces of the people he meets and hears fear and repression in their voices. The woeful cry of the chimney-sweeper stands as a chastisement to the Church, and the blood of a soldier stains the outer walls of the monarch’s residence. The nighttime holds nothing more promising: the cursing of prostitutes corrupts the newborn infant and sullies the “Marriage hearse.”
Form The poem has four quatrains, with alternate lines rhyming. Repetition is the most striking formal feature of the poem, and it serves to emphasize the prevalence of the horrors the speaker describes.
Commentary The opening image of wandering, the focus on sound, and the images of stains in this poem’s first lines recall the Introduction to Songs of Innocence, but with a twist; we are now quite far from the piping, pastoral bard of the earlier poem: we are in the city. The poem’s title denotes a specific geographic space, not the archetypal locales in which many of the other Songs are set. Everything in this urban space—even the natural River Thames—submits to being “charter’d,” a term which combines mapping and legalism. Blake’s repetition of this word (which he then tops with two repetitions of “mark” in the next two lines) reinforces the sense of stricture the speaker feels upon entering the city. It is as if language itself, the poet’s medium, experiences a hemming-in, a restriction of resources. Blake’s repetition, thudding and oppressive, reflects the suffocating atmosphere of the city. But words also undergo transformation within this repetition: thus “mark,” between the third and fourth lines, changes from a verb to a pair of nouns—from an act of observation which leaves some room for imaginative elaboration, to an indelible imprint, branding the people’s bodies regardless of the speaker’s actions.
Ironically, the speaker’s “meeting” with these marks represents the experience closest to a human encounter that the poem will offer the speaker. All the speaker’s subjects—men, infants, chimney-sweeper, soldier, harlot—are known only through the traces they leave behind: the ubiquitous cries, the blood on the palace walls. Signs of human suffering abound, but a complete human form—the human form that Blake has used repeatedly in the Songs to personify and render natural phenomena—is lacking. In the third stanza the cry of the chimney-sweep and the sigh of the soldier metamorphose (almost mystically) into soot on church walls and blood on palace walls—but we never see the chimney-sweep or the soldier themselves. Likewise, institutions of power—the clergy, the government—are rendered by synecdoche, by mention of the places in which they reside. Indeed, it is crucial to Blake’s commentary that neither the city’s victims nor their oppressors ever appear in body: Blake does not simply blame a set of institutions or a system of enslavement for the city’s woes; rather, the victims help to make their own “mind-forg’d manacles,” more powerful than material chains could ever be. The poem climaxes at the moment when the cycle of misery recommences, in the form of a new human being starting life: a baby is born into poverty, to a cursing, prostitute mother. Sexual and marital union—the place of possible regeneration and rebirth—are tainted by the blight of venereal disease. Thus Blake’s final image is the “Marriage hearse,” a vehicle in which love and desire combine with death and destruction.
Other Analyses As with most of Blake's poetry, there are several critical interpretations of London. The most common interpretation, favored by critics such as Camille Paglia and E.P. Thompson, holds that London is primarily a social protest. A less frequently held view is that of Harold Bloom; that London primarily is Blake's response to the tradition of Biblical prophecy. The use of the word 'Chartered' is ambiguous. It may express the political and economic control that Blake considered London to be enduring at the time of his writing. Blake's friend Thomas Paine had criticised the granting of Royal Charters to control trade as a form of class oppression.However, 'chartered' could also mean 'freighted', and may refer to the busy or overburdened streets and river, or to the licenced trade carried on within them. In Blake's notebook, the word 'chartered' originally read, 'dirty' In Thompson's view, Blake was an unorthodox Christian of the dissenting tradition, who felt that the state was abandoning those in need. He was heavily influenced by mystical groups. The poem reflects Blake's extreme disillusionment with the suffering he saw in London.
The reference to a harlot blighting the 'marriage hearse' with 'plague' is usually understood to refer to the spread of venereal disease in the city, passed by a prostitute to a man and thence his bride, so that marriage can become a sentence of death. The poem was published during the upheavals of the French Revolution, and the city of London was suffering political and social unrest, due to the marked social and working inequalities of the time. An understandably nervous government had responded by introducing restrictions on the freedom of speech and the mobilisation of foreign mercenaries. The City of London was a town that was shackled to landlords and owners that controlled and demeaned the majority of the lower and middle classes. Within the poem that bears the city's name, Blake describes 18th century London as a conurbation filled with people who understood, with depressing wisdom, both the hopelessness and misery of their situation.