As romanticism flourished in Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century in European culture one of the figures that stood foremost was William Blake. A poet, an engraver-putting it simply, an artist, many have raised an eyebrow with his lifestyle and works. Being a lyric poet, a visionary and even a mystic at times people have come to doubt his state of mind, whether or not he truly was an artist or simply insane.
Wordsworth, for example, commented that there “is no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in his madness which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott” and John Ruskin similarly felt that Blake’s work was “diseased and wild”, even if his mind was “great and wise(Dover,1998). Looking into Blake’s background, we find that he lived an impoverished life in what we could say, was almost absolute seclusion. His interest in outside ideas rested on being able to refute them.
Blake’s seclusion was not simply limited to isolation from other beings, it was also an isolation of the mind; which has lead to many great works which differ in style. Blake’s writings have ranged from lyrical such as his Auguries of Innocence (Erdman and Bloom, 1965) as seen: To see a world in a grain of sand And heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palm of your hand And eternity in an hour. through highly elaborate apocalyptic and visionary . He purposely wrote in the manner of the Hebrew prophets and apocalyptic writers.
He envisioned his works as expressions of prophecy, following in the footsteps (or, more precisely stepping into the shoes) of Elijah and Milton. In fact, he clearly believed himself to be the living embodiment of the spirit of Milton (Gastfield, 2007). On other occasions, Blake’s way of writing shifted to a highly speculative and paradoxical view which is very much evident in his The marriage of Heaven and Hell (Erdman and Bloom, 1965) where he writes: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. “
This also particularly expressed his rebellion against the established values during this era. Blake accepted nothing and had a yearning so deep, for all that is intangible and unbounded to man under the dominion of God, matter, and reason (Kazin,1997). He was a man who had all the divergence of human existence in his hands, and he never forgot that it is the role of man to be able to find a solution for them. Although his contemporaries may have thought him as insane and having a diseased mind, William Blake was far ahead of his time being a visionary.
A non conformist who embraced radical thinking, his works have influenced the lives of a great number of people, even being acclaimed by the underground movement. Having such great talent, and having so many ideas go through his mind, his works were merely an expression of the world that he lived in. A mind which privileged imagination over reason; and believed that ideal forms should be created not by which our eyes allow us to see but by that which our mind allows us to see. It is indeed only through the mind of a genius that such great works could be produced. REFERENCES Dover, Richard.
“William Blake and English Poetry” Willaim Blake: A Helpfile 21October 1998 North East Wales Institute, K. 12 September 2007 <http://www. newi. ac. uk/rdover/blake/index. htm> Erdman, David and Bloom, Harold. The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake. Berkley: UC Press, 1965 Gastfield, Gail. “William Blake” The William Blake Page, 2007, The William Blake Page 12 September 2007 <http://www. gailgastfield. com/Blake. html> Kazin, Alfred. “AN INTRODUCTION TO WILLIAM BLAKE” 4 July 2007. Multi Media Library. 12 September 2007 <http://www. multimedialibrary. com/Articles/kazin/alfredblake. asp>