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William Blake

He was deeply aware(=consapevole) of the great political and social issues of his age.
He was a political freethinker, he supported the French Revolution, he witnessed (=ha testimoniato)
the evil effects of industrial development on man’s soul, this is probably the reason why he believed that the artist should have a new role and that he should become the guardian of the spirit and imagination.

He created his own method for making prints that combine picture and poetic text called ‘illuminated printing’. For him illustration was the counterpart of poetry.

His poetry is regarded as early Romantic because he rejected the neoclassical literary style and themes. He stressed the importance of imagination over reason and believed that ideal forms should be created not from observation of nature but from inner vision.

The Songs of Innocence (1789) is in pastoral mode, the narrator is a shepherd who receives inspiration from a child. The symbolic imagery is very simple and it deals with childhood as the symbol of innocence, a state of the soul connected with happiness, freedom, imagination. The language is simple and musical. The Songs of Innocence were produced before the outbreak(=l’esplosione)of the French Revolution, when Blake’s enthusiasm for liberal ideas was high, instead the Songs of Experience appeared when the period of Terror was at its height in French.
In this collection there’s a more complex and pessimistic view of life.

He substituted the dualistic view with the complementary opposites, he believed that ‘without contraries there is no progression’.

Blake considered imagination as the means through which man could know the world. Imagination means to see more, beyond material reality, into the life of things. The poet is a prophet who can see more deeply into reality and who also tries to warn man of the evils of society.

Blake was actually concerned with the political and social problems of his time. He believed in revolution as a purifying violence necessary for the redemption of man. Later he focused his attention on the evil consequences of the Industrial Revolution. In his poems he sympathized with the victims of industrial society ad children and prostitutes, victims of oppression by institution as orphans and soldiers.

His poems presente a very simple structure and a highly individual sense of symbols. His verse is linear and rhythmical, and with a relationship between sound and meaning and with a frequent use of repetition.

The contraries: Traditionally, individuals are thought to move from the state of innocence to the state of experience as in the change from childhood to adulthood. Blake changes this paradigm: contrary states exist not in linear sequence, but in parallel: they’re simultaneous. His art is dialectical. Contraries are necessary but individuals use contraries in a negation way. Negation is the process whereby one half of a pair of contraries is labelled as inferior to the other half and consequently dismissed.

The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Innocence)
The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience)
The Lamb (Songs of Experience)
The Tiger (Songs of Experience)
Nurse’s song (Songs of Experience)

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