Blake: Songs of Innocence and of Experience Massolit Lectures Notes


Lecture 1: context

William Blake born in 1757 and died in 1827

He is part of the 6 major romance poets along with Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats

       However Blake is marginal in respects to the mainstream of Romanticism

       He didn't know any of the other romantic poets

       His poetry was different to the other romantic poets

Blake was inspired by lots of things that happened at his time and he addressed a number of concerns that were vital when he was alive

Blake was one of the early critics of the industrial revolution and the effects of different kinds of labour on the human body

       Similar views to that of Karl marx who was also concerned about the effects of labour on the body

He's also interested in empire, revolution and resistance to the Empire

       He wrote prophecies on America and the War of Independence

       He lived through the french revolution, the Songs of Innocence was published in the year of the French Revolution

        Blake was troubled by the reactionary powers that Europe had to it (french revolution) which has a presence within his poetry

Blake is also interested in education and cultivation of the young which was prominent in the 18th century

       In some respects the songs of innocence and experience are for children. The poems are interested in the formation and development of the mind

Blake was also a painter, engraver, illuminator and illustrator

       His poems are also illustrated and they are therefore artistic works

Blake had a very distinctive vision of what Christianity should be

       Blake's family was dissenting (they weren't religious) so he wasn't part of the state religion and the Church of England

       Blake developed his own singular version of the Christian religion

       He uses the bible as crucial poetic inspiration

Critical about what he says about nature


Lecture 2: Opposites

The songs of innocence and experience show the contrasting states of the human soul

Within Blake's poetry he emphasises opposition

       Heaven and hell

       Attraction and repulsion

       Reason and energy

       Love and hate

       Opposition is true friendship

        All of the above are quotes from William Blake- The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793)

Blake thinks that oppositions are important aspects of human existence and we are dependant on them for progression and for friendship

A Poison Tree, lines 1-4:

 I was angry with my friend:

I told my wrath, my wrath did end.

I was angry with my foe:

I told it not, my wrath did grow.

       The poem is about the necessity of expressing emotions and acting upon the feelings and desires that one can have

       It also acknowledges that opposition and negativity can enter into friendships

The idea of opposition and contrary is a structural idea for


No comments have yet been made