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William Blake 1757 - 1827

William Blake was born in London 1757 into a lower - class family. At the age of ten He was sent to a drawing school. It was only in his late twenties that Blake took to writing poetry. When he published his first collection of poetry, "Songs of innocence" in 1789, the poems were engraved; he also illustrated each one with a picture. In 1794 he published his Songs of innocence and experience in a combinated volume.
An exhibition of his paintings was a total failure, and he lived in obscurity for the rest of his life, supported by a small group of faithful friends. He died in 1827.
Blake's personality and poetry mark the beginning of the Romantic Age. He reacted violently against all tradtional forms. Politically, he was in favour of both the French and American revolutions.
Blake's poetry is difficult because of his use of complex symbols. His language and syntax are fairly simple. He often adopts an apparently naive style, wich is typical of ballads, children's songs and hymns.

Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794) were intended by Blake to be read together.
- On a first level, they were songs intended for children, but together they were meant to show "the two contrary states of the human soul".
- The world of innocence is apparently full of joy. This perfection is like a Garden of Eden, eolpled by such figures as the Lamb and the child - both symbols of Christ.
- The world of experience is tainted by selfishness,cruelty etc. It's symbol is not the Lamb but the Tiger.

The relation between the two worlds, or state of mind, is not simply one of regression or superiority. They co-exist in the same person or situation . They offer two different points of view, for Blake this dialectical opposition is essential. He develoed the theory of complementary opposites.

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