Tuesday, June 10, 2014

William Blake - Poetry/Poet Study

William Blake (November 28, 1757-August 12, 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a central figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language."

According to Poets, "From early childhood, Blake spoke of having visions—at four he saw God 'put his head to the window;' around age nine, while walking through the countryside, he saw a tree filled with angels. Although his parents tried to discourage him from 'lying,' they did observe that he was different from his peers and did not force him to attend conventional school.

"[So, Blake] learned to read and write at home. At age ten, Blake expressed a wish to become a painter, so his parents sent him to drawing school. Two years later, Blake began writing poetry. When he turned fourteen, he apprenticed with an engraver because art school proved too costly.

"As an adult, Blake was a nonconformist who associated with some of the leading radical thinkers of his day, such as Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft.'

Although he had quite a diversity of poetry and paintings to his name, he died a poor man. His family was unable to afford a funeral, so a patron of Blake's (John Linnell) loaned them money for the funeral.  He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Non-Conformist Bunhill Fields in London where his wife (Catherine) was buried four years later among other notable figures of dissent like Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan.

A grave marker now stands near to where they were buried. In 1957 a memorial to Blake and his wife was erected in Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey, London. It reads: "I must create a system, or be enslav’d by another man’s. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create—Jerusalem."

Below are six poems that Sophia and Olivia listened to. Their comments about each one are noted below the poem.


The Shepherd

How sweet is the shepherd's sweet lot!
From the morn to the evening he strays;
He shall follow his sheep all the day,
And his tongue shall be filled with praise.

For he hears the lambs' innocent call,
And he hears the ewes' tender reply;
He is watchful while they are in peace,
For they know when their shepherd is nigh.

Sophia thought:  It sounded a little like "The Lord is My Shepherd" - just a little bit. It is something you could probably easily memorize. The first couple of lines sounded very angelic.

Olivia thought: At the beginning it was a bit confusing because I wasn't sure what kind of shepherd they were talking about. I was thinking about the German Shepherd. It sounds kind of sad - maybe the ending. It sounded like the baby lamb was lost. I like it, but it's not my favorite.


Laughing Song

When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy,
And the dimpling stream runs laughing by;
When the air does laugh with our merry wit,
And the green hill laughs with the noise of it;

When the meadows laugh with lively green,
And the grasshopper laughs in the merry scene;
When Mary and Susan and Emily
With their sweet round mouths sing 'Ha ha he!'

When the painted birds laugh in the shade,
Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread:
Come live, and be merry, and join with me,
To sing the sweet chorus of 'Ha ha he!'

Sophia thought:  That was a weird one. No one laughs like that. I like second half of it because it kind of rhymed. I can see in my mind what the poet is saying.

Olivia thought:It's definitely cheery. It would be something you would hear during a party during the summer. I liked the ending because it's kind of funny - especially the last line of "Ha ha he."



Sound the flute!
Now it's mute!
Birds delight,
Day and night,
In the dale,
Lark in sky, --
Merrily, merrily to welcome in the year.

Little boy,
Full of joy;
Little girl,
Sweet and small;
Rooster does crow,
So do you;
Merry voice,
Infant noise;
Merrily, merrily to welcome in the year.

Little lamb,
Here I am;
Come and lick
My white neck;
Let me pull
Your soft wool;
Let me kiss
Your soft face;
Merrily, merrily we welcome in the year.

Sophia thought:  The beginning rhymes. I like that one - it's cute. It's definitely spring. I could picture spring time when I listen to this. I liked the first three or four lines. It sounds like "Row Row Row Your Boat" with the merrily parts.

Olivia thought: It definitely rhymes. It's adorable because it sounds like something our cousins would try to say. I liked the lamb part the best.


The Fly

Little Fly,
Thy summer's play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance,
And drink, and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath,
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly.
If I live,
Or if I die.

Sophia thought:  I think it's wrong that he has the title of the poem as "The Fly" and then put words like "thee" and "thou" in it. It just doesn't seem to go together. It doesn't sound like one of his best works.

Olivia thought: I thought it was bizarre because it was about a fly and swatting it away. I didn't really like this one because it didn't make sense to me.


The Tyger

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 seize the fire?

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

Sophia thought:  The name doesn't seem to really fit the poem. It doesn't really sound like it's talking about a tiger much. I thought it was a bit longer than it needed to be.

Olivia thought: It sounds like it was talking about a forest fire - like the part about the stars throwing down their spears and trying to put the fire out. This poem didn't really make sense to me.


The Lily

The modest Rose puts forth a thorn,
The humble sheep a threat'ning horn:
While the Lily white shall in love delight,
Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.

Sophia thought:  I like that one. It's kind of odd that they went between a rose and a sheep. I like this poem because I like lilies and it fit them perfectly. This is my favorite poem...maybe out of all the ones I've heard...and definitely out the ones by William Blake.

Olivia thought: I like this one - saying the lily was harmless. I like this poem more than the other ones by William Blake. What stood out was that the rose had a thorn and that it could hurt someone. But the lily can't harm anyone because it doesn't have any thorns on it.


1 comment:

Rita said...

I remember reading Blake in high school. But I haven't since, so it was kind of fun to read these again after so many decades. :)