6/29/2019

William Blake as a pre-romantic poet.



William Blake is considered a precursor of Romantic Movement in English Literature. His romanticism is seen in the imagination, mysticism, symbolism, life of liberty, humanitarian sympathies, idealisation of childhood, pastoral setting, and in the lyricism. Romanticism differed from the outlook expounded by the preceding age of Neo-classicism which promoted the notion of reason, balance and logic with regard to prose and poetry.

Imagination is a salient feature of romanticism, and the poetic creed of William Blake is based on imagination. The visions that Blake saw in his childhood and which he kept seeing throughout his life, were a product of his excited imagination. His visions controlled his poetry. Of many of his poems he said that they were dictated to him by spirits. In other words, he was an inspired poet who made good use of his imagination. In the stress of imagination he is truly romantic. The Introduction to Songs of Innocence is a highly imaginative poem which reflects the innocence and happiness of childhood. It describes a vision in which a child makes the poet sing happy songs.

Blake was a great champion of liberty and had strong humanitarian sympathies. This is another aspect of his romanticism. Blake's poetry is a vast gospel of liberty. It embraces all the political ideas of the French Revolution. Blake's humanitarian sympathies are seen in The Chimney Sweeper and above all in London. The Chimney Sweeper highlights the cruelty and hostility of parents and the society. It satirizes religion at whose alter humanity and human values are sacrificed. In London, Blake attacks social injustice and its
various forms.

Like other romantic poets Blake also uses symbols. There is hardly any poem in the Songs of Innocence and of Experience which symbols have not been used. In Songs of Innocence Blake accepts lamb and child to symbolize innocence. Moreover, they also stand for Jesus Christ. In The Chimney Sweeper the cloud and the grave stand for the physical body of man. In Songs of Experience the tiger is the anti-type of the lamb of innocence. It represents the violent and terrifying forces within man. In The Chimney Sweeper, the parents, the priests, and the king are symbolic of authority. In London oppression and tyranny are symbolized by the king, social institutions like loveless marriage and the "mind-forged manacles."

Unlike Wordsworth, in Blake nature is a part of the human universe and sympathies with the human heart. The pastoral setting in Blake gives an added spiritual colour and conforms with the innocence of children. In his pastoral setting the lamb enjoys supreme divinity. In the Introduction to Songs of Innocence, Blake sees himself as a shepherded and moves with his flock of sheep piping melodiously all the way. Such poems describe a rural landscape, beauties and idyllic simplicity.

As a poet, Blake stands beside Gray, Collins and Burns as one of the pre-romantics. We find in Blake's poetry many of the elements characterising romantic poetry. In his championship of liberty, his mysticism, naturalism, idealisation of childhood, and simplicity Blake could be called a precursor of Romantic poetry in 19th century England.

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