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Poetry: October 14, 2020 Issue [#10417]

 This week: Blake in a Grain of Sand
  Edited by: eerie eyestar~Haunting WDC
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1. About this Newsletter
2. A Word from our Sponsor
3. Letter from the Editor
4. Editor's Picks
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6. Ask & Answer
7. Removal instructions

About This Newsletter

Good day! I am happy to be your editor this week. I saw one of my favourite verses recently and so here I am to share a bit about William Blake *Smile* whose purpose was to:

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour."

from Auguries of Innocence, William Blake.

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Letter from the editor

William Blake ( November 18, 1757-August 1827) was an amazing creator in his time and sometimes controversial. He is considered a Light in English poetry though not really honoured in his own time due to his idiosyncratic views. Taught mostly at home, he was well learned and became a poet, painter, engraver and always the visionary. He worked and lived in London in a time of great social and political change and unrest that inspired his writing. He developed an interest in art and politics and many of his poems reflect his thoughts or visions on events like revolution and religion. He was known to protest war and the tyranny of kings, praise the rise of democracy during the French Revolution. In his work "Marriage of Heaven and Hell" he commented on the oppressive authority of church and state and his epic poem "Jersualem" produced between 1804 and 1820, consists of 100 etched and illustrated plates, his longest single and prophetic work. Though a committed Christian he was hostile to the church of England and it over organized forms.

Born one of 7 children (5 who survived Infancy) into a family of moderate means, he was often taught by his mother and wondered around London and countryside. He is known to have had visions at an early age, seeing angels and his work often has this visionary quality. At age 10 he was sent to Pars school of drawing and at 14 was apprenticed to an engraver James Basire where he excelled. At 21 he attended the Royal Academy and on to a career of engraving for booksellers. He went on to have his own shop and continued to illustrate his own works as well.

He married the love of his life Catharine Boucher, whom he taught to read, write, design, and colour, everything she needed to help him in his work. They were married for 45 years til his death. He died in 1872 and his wife always maintained he guided her the rest of her life.

His first published work was "Political Sketches" commenting on war and monarchy in 1783.

He was close to his brother Robert, whose death at age 24 in 1787 rocked his world and he always maintained that his brother's spirit was there when he was working. Very convinced that spirits, angels indeed were always with us, his pictures often showed that theme.

A philosophical and spiritual poet, he felt that poems should "delight and instruct" and come from personal experience and in the tradition of the the ancient bards and prophets. During his life he wrote and illustrated many creative and expressive works, that are now seen as genius. He is one of the earliest Romantic poet.

My first experience with Blake was back in high school where I studied the poem "The Tyger" for an assignment. It always stuck with me and apparently the firs line is one of the his most remembered and quoted line as it reads like a child's lyric so easy to recall. Blake often sang poems. It is one of his most read and interpreted pieces as well.

"Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?"

It has regular meter of six quatrains, regular AABB rhyme and is framed with verse one being repeated at the end. It is potent how in verse 1 he just questions who made the Tyger and at the end challenges with "who dares" to. A contemplative query about creation, how God created such good and yet, could he have created the "evil" too as represented by the burning "Tyger", his symbol for evil or dark.

I like his use of repeated sounds as in, "frame thy fearful", vivid imagery and the repeated questioning in the poem. I can feel the intensity of the tone and emotion. It is like a demand!

"The Tyger" is one of the poems in his work Songs of Experience and is often paired in contrast with "The Lamb" from his Songs of Innocence". He was keen on showing the contrary states of the human soul.

"Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little lamb, I'll tell thee;
Little lamb, I'll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild,
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little lamb, God bless thee!
Little lamb, God bless thee!

Here he is asking who the creator is and answers in the end. The "lamb" a symbol for Christ and for a child. Again a simple rhyme like a song with a vivid description of the pure and mild lamb with loving nature.
Later with" the Tyger," he ponders how can a being who can create such innocence, also create the fierce "Tyger".

It is thought poems like these were songs, but nothing is left of his music.
It was really during the Modern period that his wonderful work was fully appreciated. William Yeats was inspired by his philosophical ideas, the beat poets in the 1950"s and the counter culture of the 60's inspiring folks like Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Van Morrison, Aldous Huxley who have cited him. Even Carl Jung and Freud studied him. Many, like Kathleen Yearwood have put his words to music. HIs influence has crossed through ages so his "angels" are still at work.

Do you have a favourite Poem of William Blake?

Thanks for reading.




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