William Blake was born in London in 1757; he attended a drawing school and then he became an apprentice to a famous engraver. He studied at the Royal Academy of Arts; in 1782 he married Catherine Boucher, an illiterate woman. He taught her to read, write and help him in his work as an engraver.
Blake spent the rest of his life in poverty and obscurity. He died in 1827.
• SONGS OF INNOCENCE (1789), dealing with childhood as the symbol of innocence, happiness, freedom and immagination. This poems are written in a simple, musical language, rich in symbols, drawn from the Bible;
• SONGS OF EXPERIENCE (1794), there is a more pessimistic view of life: experience is identified with adulthood.
INFLUENCES ON BLAKE’S WORKS
His experience as a craftsman, a visionary and a radical contributed to the development of his poetry. His rebbelious attitude was the result of several influences. Individual had a right to happiness and pleasure outside the restrictions of morality and religion. The two most importants litterary influences in his life were the Bibble and Milton.
He was a visionary, he has visions of the Saints, of Maria, of Mosè and also of died-people. His Christianity, however, was not ascetic, liturgical or moralistic; he belived in the reality of a spiritual word but regarded Christianity, and the church expecially, as responsible for the fragmentation of consciousness and the dualism characterizing men’s life. The moral of the church was criticized because its moral was too strict.
He belived in “complementary opposites”: “without contraries there is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate are necessary for uman existence”. The two states coexist not only in the uman being but also in the figure of the Creator, who can be et the same time the God of love and innocence and the God of energy and violence.
Blake considered immagination as the means through wich Man could know the world. “The divine vision” means “to see more beyond material reality, into the life of things”. God, the child and the poet share this power of vision which is also the power of created beings. The poet becomes a sort of prophet who can see more deeply into reality.
Blake was personaly concerned with the political an social problems of is time: he supported the abolition of slavery and shared other intellectuals’ enthusiasm for the egalitarian principles which came to the fore during the French Revolution. He believed in revolution as purifying violence necessary for the redention of man. In his poems he sympathized with the victims of industrial society such as children and prostitutes, as well as with the victims of institutional oppression such as orphans an soldiers.
His poems present a very simple stucture and a highly individual use of symbols. The child, the father and Christ representing the states of innocence, experience and a higher innocence. He produced his collection of poems by the method of “Illuminated printing”: each page was engraving of a text surrounded by immages and the signs coloured by hand in water colour by the poet himself; the text and the drawings were meant to illustrate and intencify each other’s meaning.
I) Pre-romanticism (fine 1700/inizio 1800)
II) Romanticism (I° metà dell’800)
III) Victorian age (II° metà del 1800)
IV) Xxth century
Enlightment: Augustan age (Tentativo di realizzare opere tanto grandi come lo erano state quelle fatte sotto l’imperatore Augusto)
Industrial revolution: - From a society based on agricolture to a society based on industry. The whole society changed under the industrial revolution: changed the organization of work (factories, salaries) and also the life of human beings (urbanizations with problem of pollution and hygenic conditions...).
- INVENTIONS of new machinery
- People from the country-side come to the town where took place the factories.
- SOCIAL PROBLEMS: people, with no rights, had to work 12 hours a day. Also children (6 years old) had to work so hardly. The middle life become shorter.
Workers worked earning very little money and live in slums without sanitations.
WILLIAM BLAKE: He was the first writer who gave more importance to poor le in the city during the industrial revolutions instead of ng about the middle class.
In this period writers start a new way of considering art and the artist (something of new)
History: 1) The American revolution that is the loss of the American colonies.
2) The industrial revolution
1)King George the third (1760) reigns for 60 years. He wasn’t a good king and he becomes mad: this fact caused a decadent period in England. He wants to take all the political power in his hands. (England has never had kings with absolut power...). He was contrasted by the political parties and by parliament.
On the other side of the Ocean the colonies wanted more freedom and they didn’t want to obly to the English roles. They didn’t want to pay taxes to England (“No taxation without rapresentation”). There was a war between English and American colonies after the Boston party (1773), called war of indipendence. At the head of American army there was George Washington, who won the war, so American colonies become a new indipendent nation. The United States of America made the Declaration of Indipendence, which contains the central right of americans: a natural right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. America means for many people the possibility of a new start and they melt and form a new race.
George Washington became the first american president from 1787 untill 1797.
2)In the second part of 1700 England was trasformed from an agricoltural to an industrial country.
• Inventions of new machinary (spinning and weaving machinery)
Spinning, to spinn = filare
Weaving, to weav = tessere
Innovations: spinning Jenny and new water frame machines.
Jemes Watt made an engine based on stream power
Before the steam engine factories took place near the rivers using the water power, but after this innovation this wasn’t necessary.
New industries were built in new districts of England changing the face of the towns. The cottage-industries praticed in house became great industry.
Work hours were very long, children and women were axploited in the mines and factories. There was a new richness in society and there was also an improvment in transport, because to much good was produced for the old transport system. England is full of canals, this kind of transport is cheaper than others, like by roads ...
There was an increas of canals and also of roads. The revolution was also in agricolture: creation of new big farms were people were paid by wages.
The owners became very rich, while the laboriers live in very bad conditions.
• Social implication of industrialism:
Factory workers were oblied to work for wages. The nation was divided in 2 main classes:
1) Those who lived by owning
2) The wage earners
The gap between the rich and poor increased. With the building of factory there was a shifting of the popolation fro the country-side to the new industrial towns.
Near the coal-mines new factories were built and near these new factories were built new towns, called mushroom towns becouse of the very quikly evolution.
These industrial towns lacked public service:
• open spaces
The air and the water were polluted by smoke and filth. The houses were overcrowed built in ruins. There was a change from a life based on the change of season to a mechanized regularity of the machines and rational divisions of labour.
Wages were very low and kept people hardly alive.
EMOTION VS REASON
The last thirty years of eighteenth century are called pre-romanticism or early romanticism becouse after new sensibility and it influenced also the writers. The rationalism of the Enlightment proved unsatisfaction.
People thought that the supremacy of reason had led to the repression of emotion.
• humble and everyday life
• greater attention to the countryside as an ideal place for meditation far from the great industrial town
• interest in melancholy and meditation on the suffering of the poor and on death
• a new taste for the desolate, the ruins, graveyards, ancient castles and abbeys.
• The interest in the middle-age
• A revolution in the concept of nature. In the previous ages nature was considered as an abstract and philosophical concept, a set of divine laws and principles established by god. Now nature is seen as a real and living being.