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William Blake

An artist, a mystic, and an extraordinary, independent spirit, Blake had visions which helped him escape from the squalid reality around him. It was reported that he had the vision of a tree full of angels when he was only eight years old.
Even if he belongs, chronologically, to the 18th century rather than to the 19 th, he is entirely romantic in his hatred of the conventions imposed by civilisation and of the restrictions on individual freedom, and above all in his concept of the imagination. Blake was convinced that the intellect destroys the imagination, man’s highest faculty and the sole guide to truth. The imagination is the “Divine Vision” of the poet, and to Blake the poet is a seer, a prophet inspired by divine messages, whose task is to restore ideal conditions where man and imagination can be one again.

His lyrical impulse is seen at its best in the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. He reached a simplicity of style, a freshness and, at the same time, a poignancy which clearly anticipate the achievements of the Romantics, notably Wordsworth.
Blake was deeply influenced by the mystical throught of the Swedish thinker Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) and the German mystic Jakob Boehme (1575-1624), and by the occult and esoteric traditions in European throught. His “visionary” works describe the struggle of the spirit of intellect, Urizen, against the spirit of imagination, Los. In the energetic and passionate poetry of these books, Blake expounded his lifelong concern with the struggle of the soul to express its natural energies when restricted by reason, law and organised religion. His philosophy took a Christian direction, trough it was distant from the conventional Christianity of tradition, and the struggle between intellect and imagination appeared to find a solution in the coming of Christ, the divine figure in The Lamb.

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