Selected Poems by William Blake

The beauty of the written word is never complete without realizing the strength of its equivalent spoken word. That is poetry in its basic form.

At a young age, William Blake saw angels in a tree sometime between 1765-67. This experience prompted him to study drawing, engraving, and lastly, painting--probably to record visions not generally seen by common people in his time. In his later years he suffered poverty and neglect but his rare talent in literature, illustration, and his visions earned him a unique position in British history.  Spiritual, mystic, or just a plain dreamer, one thing is certain and it's about his highly visual and symbolic literary skills reflected in his works.

Take these two stanzas from the introduction of Songs of Experience (the part where he introduces himself as a poet):

Hear the  voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future sees, 
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word
That walk'd among the ancient trees,

Calling the lapsed Soul,
And weeping  in the evening dew,
That might controll
The starry pole
And fallen, fallen light renew!

I observe some apparent misspellings but they are printed in this book exactly the way they are in the original engravings and notes by the author. Those words have the traces of being  archaic, progenitors of the present-day words easy to spot since they all sound common (shew-show, eccho-echo, extacy-ecstacy, akeing-aching, embrio-embryo, desart-desert, etc.). This is my reason for the emphasis of the spoken word here. Try reciting a passage or two, and you will like how they sound.

This is my favorite excerpt from There is No Natural Religion:

Application: He who sees the Infinite in all things
sees God. He who sees the Ratio only sees himself only.
Therefore: God becomes as we are, that we may be as he is.

image©Thomas Phillips
Nature is imagination itself--he declares in his letter to Dr Tusler. I could not agree more. Because as a poet if you cannot project to the audience the picture in your mind and its symbols, then you already failed as a communicator. The message is no longer the same and the bridge is lost between the creator and his creation.

Overall, this is a neat collection of selected poems by William Blake published by Phoenix Poetry. The chronology of Blake's life in parallel to historical world events in the final pages is a big bonus. This one is highly recommended as an introductory William Blake read.  

Genre: Poetry
Rating: 4 woodcuts out of 5


  1. I've never read William Blake but I really like your explanation of what you got from it. Might have to give it a go :)


  2. Thanks! If you have the time, his artworks are equally worthy to see. It's nice to read your comment here.


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