OCR A2 William Blake Songs of Innocence and Experience A03 and A04

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Songs of Innocence and Experience Revision
Blake's illuminated books were modelled on manuscripts from the Middle Ages,
where the pictures informed the words and the words the pictures, and the links
between them were supplied by the reader, not managed by the artist.
never tempted to massproduce
The most significant `sources' for Blake's Songs are the popular poems of the
late eighteenth century, particularly hymns and ballads. But the big difference
between Blake's Songs and these analogues was that Blake's children are
never interested in establishing a moral for his piece.
Songs of Innocence was published in 1789, the year of the Fall of the Bastille in
France, the FR Rev inspired Blake however as it became more violent and they
seemed to do away with the Catholic Church Blake stopped supporting them
If the revolutionaries were to behave as heretics, argued the profoundly Christian
Blake, it was his duty to be a saint
The political vision of Blake's poems is thus infuriatingly difficult to match up with
deliverable political programmes.
The apparently simple antislavery poem `The Little Black Boy' in Innocence
proves a minefield for proponents of political correctness. Within the context of
his innocent otherworldliness are all kinds of arguably racist implications
On the titlepage of Songs of Innocence and Experience (1794) Blake suggests
that the poems are meant to illustrate the `Two Contrary States of the Human
Soul'. Images of Adam and Eve crouch amid the fiery wrath of God, their genitals
crudely covered with leaves
Gilchrist: "The Songs of Experience consist rather of earnest, impassioned
arguments in this differing from the simple affirmations of the earlier Songs of
Innocence arguments on the loftiest themes of existence."
Throughout his life Blake questioned established orthodoxies and systems
For Blake `Bacon, Locke, and Newton' are not the fathers of modern science,
but `the three great teachers of Atheism, or Satan's Doctrine'
Deeply religious, Blake came profoundly to distrust organised religion. By birth
he was a dissenter, refusing to subscribe to the Thirty Nine Articles that defined
the Established Church of England.
Throughout his life Blake was appalled by the human propensity to create and
submit to oppressive images of the deity
London was, for Blake, both the Jerusalem and the Babylon described in the
Bible, and the events described or promised in scripture unfolded on its streets:
images of fire and ruin were collected aplenty during the antiCatholic Gordon
Riots of 1780
the stars that threw down their spears in `The Tyger' might have owed something
to the `Great Fiery Meteor' of 1783 even the Tyger, eighteenth century symbol of
bloodthirstiness (however badly Blake drew it)
This country is as idealised and aesthetic as any in an eighteenth century bucolic

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Blake's contemporaries thought him at best a harmless crank, at worst a
madman. Throughout his life he was given to curious or premature experiments:
with nudism, spiritualism, sexual magic.…read more

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Raymond Williams
Blake above criticised his materialistic society for blunting imagination
Peter Ackroyd
In Innocence Blake sought to dramatise spiritual significance as well as the
deficiencies of innocence
The songs in their time were seen as wild and mystical with an old fashioned
gothic appearance therefore they were not right for his age
Blake was influenced by Paracelsus who celebrated the imagination and is even
mentioned in Blakes `The Marriage of Heaven and Hell'
Blake quote: "Man has the essence of God in himself"
Wider…read more

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­ Rousseau publishes The Social Contract about human rights
Rousseau ­ first romantic philosopher valuing feeling and innocence
Thomas Paine ­ The Rights of Man attacked hereditary government and the
monarchy and mirrored the beliefs of dissenters (Blake)
Locke believed that at birth the mind is a blank slate and all knowledge comes
from experience but Blake and the Dissenters believed that this denied the
possibility of the `inbreathing' of God's spirit and the human capacity to be
attuned to God
Locke's beliefs also led…read more


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