Almost all of Blake's published writings are here, as well as most of his best shorter poems that remained in manuscript at his death, and much of his most energetic prose. Of Blake's major epics, Milton is printed in full, in its longest version; Jerusalem is represented by selection amounting to one third of the complete poem, and The Four Zoas by briefer excerpts. All the other poetic works are presented complete.
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Blake is my favorite poet, and this collection contains his best work. Including the well-known "Tyger, Tyger". Also included are his wonderful original illustrations.
I¿ll start by saying that this collection includes one of my favorite quotes of all time, from Auguries of Innocence:¿To see a World in a Grain of SandAnd a Heaven in a Wild Flower:Hold Infinity in the palm of your handAnd Eternity in an hour.¿Blake was creative, intense, and quasi-religious, opposing both the repressiveness of the established church and the rationalism of its critics. As the commentary in this edition states, ¿¿after eighteen centuries during which Christianity had come to identify itself with the interests of the ruling class, it was now high time to recall the disruptive and revolutionary actions of Jesus.¿ However, Blake also rejected the popular Deist movement of the day: ¿¿you are also Enemies of the Human Race & of Universal Nature.¿So in some ways a good portion of his writing is a pulling down of religion, with Blake creating his own mythology to replace it. He sees the fall from grace as (1) the error of perceiving life as finite and corrupt, and limited to the physical plane (personified by a character he calls Urizen, who reduces all reality to what can be manipulated by cold, calculating rationality, the proponent of royalty and creator of religion), and (2) the error of perceiving reality as brute matter resulting from a failure of imagination (which is symbolized by Los, the creative force, a poet, and the `eternal prophet¿). There are many other aspects to this mythos: Fuzon, pure defiance, the pent-up lust of Urizen who cannot better the world; Orc, who struggles against political oppression, sexual repression, and all rational constrictions and restrictions on energy (representing America) ¿ and many others that I won¿t go through as it¿s a bit tedious. Blake sees the resurrection as man, with the help of imagination, attaining self-acceptance and a recognition of the divinity within. There are occasional nuggets of gold in the passages, but Blake is a bit overwrought and I am a little surprised in retrospect that I read through this entire book. The Norton Edition is quite nice if you¿re a Blake fan; it includes all his artwork; personally I think his art is only `ok¿ but they do add to the text, and are given beautiful treatment including color plates in the center.Quotes:On babies, from A cradle song in Blake¿s Notebook:¿Sleep sleep beauty brightDreaming oer the joys of nightSleep sleep: in thy sleepLittle sorrows sit & weepSweet Babe in thy faceSoft desires I can traceSecret joys & secret smilesLittle pretty infant wiles¿On clarity, from A Memorable Fancy in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell; which Jim Morrison read and named his band after:¿If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.¿On experience, from Night II:¿What is the price of Experience? do men buy it for a song?Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the priceOf all that a man hath: his house, his wife, his children.Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,And in the withered field where the farmer plows for bread in vain.¿On goodbye, from An Island in the Moon:¿Leave, O leave me to my sorrows,Here I¿ll sit & fade away,Till I¿m nothing but a spiritAnd I lose this form of clay.Then if chance along this forestAny walk in pathless ways,Thro the gloom he¿ll see my shadow,Hear my voice upon the Breeze.¿On the holiness of life, from America: A Prophecy:¿For every thing that lives is holy, life delights in life:Because the soul of sweet delight can never be defil¿d.¿And this one, from Milton, Book the Second:¿His little throat labours with inspiration; every featherOn throat & breast & wings vibrates with the effluence Divine;All Nature listens silent to him & the awful SunStands still upon the Mountain looking on this little BirdWith eyes of soft humility & wonder, love & awe.¿On innocence, this is actually from the criticism, Northrop Frye, Blake¿s Treatment of the Archetype:¿When we say that a child