Poetry of William Blake

“The Chimney Sweeper”, “The Lamb”, and “The Tyger” are some of the best-known poems by William Blake. Scholars list William Blake among the godfathers of Gothic genre in literature. The aforementioned poems are connected in terms of the thematic framework of each poem. Even more importantly, however, the poem can be viewed as an example of how fine arts and poetry were combined and complemented each other in the life’s work of William Blake. William Blake’s poems “The Chimney Sweeper”, “The Lamb”, and “The Tyger”, in spite of being related to one another thematically, are essential for better understanding of William Blake’s creative manner.

 

Good and evil, life and death, vice and virtue, struggle between the divine and demonic forces are some of the central motives of William Blake’s life’s work. In this respect, it essential to point out that in the poems “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” good and evil as if stand opposed to each other. Both poems abound with symbols and metaphors. The animals portrayed in each poem are considered archetypal symbols. A lamb in the poem is a symbol of obedience and lenience. Even more so, a lamb in the poem can be viewed as an incarnation of the forces of good, open and naïve. On the other hand, it is not a lamb that represents the God, the maker of all life, but the lamb is rather an incarnation of a force that is “meek” and “mild” (“The Lamb”). The image of a lamb in William Blake’s poem, in a way, stands opposed to the image of a lion. The lamb, according to S. Foster Damno, represents “the Loving God”, whilst the tiger is an incarnation of “the Angry God”. The lamb in the poem is a pray, unlike the tiger, whose nature is that of a carnivore, a predator. Developing his statement further, S. Foster Damno makes an assertion that “the Tyger is not the contrary of the Lamb but its negation”. All things considered, William Blake’s poem “The Lamb” can be characterized as reflexive. In that particular poem, the author is pondering the ambiguities of life. Particularly, the poet is contemplating how good and evil are intertwined in people’s lives. Apart from that, the author of the poem is concerned with the questions like how good and evil are intertwined in the world of men, why do people allow evil to exist, how come people have let evil endure.

In order to deduce author’s intention and the key message(s) that his works convey, it is essential to take the following aspects into account. William Blake was raised a Christian. Therefore, the poet’s parents attempted to foster spiritual values, preserve the virtue, and pass their knowledge on to the William Blake himself. Religious upbringing has played an unprecedentedly important role in and has had a strong effect on the formation of William Blake’s worldview, his philosophical, religious, and aesthetic views. Perhaps, even more importantly, religion and faith have both influenced William Blake artistically, meaning that competence in the questions of theology has affected artist’s and poet’s creativity to a greater extent.

“The Tyger” is commonly defined as one of best-known and loved poems by William Blake. The researchers and biographers have estimated that the poem was written about 1793. Referring to William Blake’s poem “The Tyger”, Charles Lamb, in his letter that dates back to 1824, described the poem itself as “glorious”. The poem reaches its apex in the following line: “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”. The line cited above may be interpreted in a following way. In the poem itself the author questions whether or not it is the same force that may have created good and evil and thus, whether or not it is the same force that controls good and evil.

“The Tyger” and “The Lamb” poem are both written in a language that may be classified as somewhat archaic. Both poems abound with obsolete words, such as, for example, “thou”, “thee”, “dost”, “thy”, and “thine” (“The Lamb”; “The Tyger”). There is no unambiguous approach as to understanding why exactly the author uses archaic lexis. Hence, the most plausible explanation for author’s using obsolete words in his works is the following. Life and death, good and evil, afterlife, sin and penance, art and culture, nature and civilization, humanity, art and science, deities and divine, religion and faith, animals and pets, living and relationships are some of the so-called eternal questions. In other words, those are the questions that have been haunting mankind for a millennium, or centuries no lees. Therefore, probably, the poet uses archaic words to emphasize the importance of issues being discussed in the poems. On the other hand, the poems “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” by William Blake give insight into the conventions that shaped the lives of people and the relationships between them in the late eighteenth century.

The relevance of the issues stated above to William Blake’s poems “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” is as follows. Mankind has always interested itself with the questions of life and death. Even more so, the poems being analyzed prove that William Blake himself was concerned with the questions of life and death. People have always been trying to shed some light on the mystery of afterlife. The same applies to William Blake. Telling the right from wrong and attempting to define what is good and what is evil has always been one of the ethical, philosophical, cultural, and aesthetic priorities. Sin and penance are some of the most important religious concepts. Art and culture, in their own turn, are the cornerstones of aesthetics, ethics, and philosophy, let alone the culture studies. The conflict between nature and civilization implies that the process of human alienation from nature is taking place. The presence of the motif of humanity in the works of art may have implied that the processes of moral corruption and decay had begun to assert themselves. The dispute between artists and scientists has been taking place for a while now, and thus, proved itself to be one of the most serious ethical, philosophical, and cultural questions of our era. Whether person is an atheist, beliefs in God or multiple gods, is one of the major questions of the religious life of modern societies. Unwittingly, the life’s work of William Blake conclusively proves that religion and faith are different notions. Evidently, religion and faith are related notions and yet, each of those represents different aspects of human life. The poems “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” portray the two archetypal animals, the lamb, and the tiger. Each of the animals being portrayed is symbolic and represents different qualities (properties). Apart from that, the poems under consideration by William Blake give insight into how the author’s contemporaries perceived nature and all life that they deem less meaningful than their own. Living and relationships prove themselves to be some of the major social, ethical, and philosophical questions. Living patterns (lifestyle) and worldview imply a reference to a great deal of many other ethical, philosophical, social, and cultural questions.         

“The Chimney Sweeper”, in its own turn, is the poem in which William Blake addresses the problems of child labor, abuse that the adults subject children to, and job and working as such. Life and death, afterlife can be only be viewed as the supporting themes of the poem being discussed. “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake reads: “And by came an Angel who had a bright key, / And he opened the coffins & set them all free; / Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run, / And wash in a river and shine in the Sun” (“Chimney Sweeper”). The excerpt represents the specific place in the text of the poem, in which the image of the poem as a whole proves itself to be most vivid. In general, it may seem that the poem may very well have much in common with Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist in terms of the thematic frameworks of both works. As far as the imagery is concerned, it has to be pointed out the poems abounds with symbols, such as, for example, a chimney, brushes, father, and an angel. Chimney represents all the hardship person may encounter on their way to happiness. More importantly, however, chimney in William Blake’s poem is a symbol of pressure and oppression. Brush is a tool, an object that represents hard work and an occupation/ a craft / a profession. An image of a father in the poem represents strength, experience, wisdom, and responsibility. Even more importantly, however, the image of a father in William Blake’s poem is a symbol of coming of age and a family. An angel is a symbol of purity, the kind of a divine force that brings comfort.

Quintessence of different forms of art, combing fine arts and literature in particular, happens to be one of the major creative principles that William Blake kept to. Fine arts are the key to better understanding of William Blake’s works. Even more so, visualization and making illustrations to William Blake’s poems, the experience shows, can be a great way for the audience to unravel the meaning of symbols that one may find in William Blake’s poems. At this point, it is essential to take a small detour to point out the following. Fine arts and literate were the major threats, harmoniously woven into the canvas of William Blake’s creative work. In other words, fine arts and literate are intertwined in William Blake’s works. Assuming the foregoing statement is correct, William Blake’s own paintings help to understand the symbolism message that his own poems convey. Thus, the poems “The Chimney Sweeper”, “The Lamb”, and “The Tyger” show the audience that the world of men and the world of nature are intimately related. Apart from that, each of the aforementioned poems conclusively proves that all life is meaningful and that evil and good are equally important in people’s lives.   

“The Lamb”, “The Tyger”, and “The Chimney Sweeper” are all some of the best-known poems by William Blake. All three poems have very much in common. The imagery of each poem is vivid. The plane of expression of each poem, concise and expressive, is nearly perfect. In each of the poems mentioned above, author’s intention and the messages convey are difficult to decipher and interpret. Generally speaking, in the poems “The Lamb”, “The Tyger”, and “The Chimney Sweeper”, William Blake makes a statement that all life is meaningful.                             

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