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5 poems by William Blake

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In this essay I will be examining the way 5 poems by William Blake convey his attitudes towards the society he lived in. William Blake was born on the 28th of November 1757, and then died on the 12th of August 1827. He spent most of his life living in London, except from 1800 to 1803 where he lived in a cottage in Felpham, a seaside village in Sussex. When Blake was almost 25 he married Catherine Bouchier. They had no children but were married for almost 45 years. In 1784, a year after he published his first collection of poems, Blake set up an engraving business, prior to this he was an apprentice engraver making plates where pictures for books were printed. Blake's most famous collections of poems were most probably the 'Songs of Innocence' and the 'Songs of experience'. These collections focused on human nature and society in both positive and negative terms. The first poem that I will look at in this essay will be 'London'. 'London' is a poem, which the modern reader can empathise with more than maybe 'The echoing green' - another poem by William Blake. This is due to the fact that it emphasises the vast difference from those in power to the melancholy of poor people, which is common in today's society. ...read more.


Cruelty, as he "knits a snare" or "spreads his baits" is compared to a 'hunter' (snares or baits, would be used to catch small prey), also by saying "his" Blake implies that this is a person not one of his 'abstractions'. The "Catterpillar and fly" which "Feed on the Mystery" suggest the idea of sickness and corruption. The "thickest shade" where the "raven" nests, puts forward the obscurity and secrecy of the "Human Abstract", this furthermore reflects on Blake's depiction of society. The final stanza gives away the 'key' to 'unlock' the poem; the "Gods" searched "in vain" to find this tree, but Blake knows it is found "in the Human Brain", showing that its existence is genuine, but in a metaphorical way. In all, the poem contains some 'striking' images, the first stanza emphasises the problems for those who want a fairer society, or perhaps the reasons why there will never be a fair society among us. This poem has blatant links with "The Poison Tree"; they share almost exactly the same image and core metaphor, showing the contrary states of the human form. The "Poison Tree" has almost the same metaphor as the "Human Abstract" it explains that the one certain truth is nature. The way it shares this with a "Human Abstract" is the image of a tree as it grows, while in "London" the image is of manacles, which contrasts with the "Human Abstract" and the "Poison Tree" due to the manacles holding back this growth. ...read more.


This is mainly down to the fact that she has been looking in the wrong place, the "lonely dale", while the boy has been in the "mire" or "fen". Overall the poems are showing that although society is sometimes cruel and sometimes fowl; there is always a 'soft spot' for children. In the 5 poems I have reviewed in this essay, there is a connection throughout between the subjects and the 'deeper truths' they posses. The Human Abstract and The Poison Tree show "the contrary states of the human soul", the good, the evil. Though London is obviously about the way people live unhappily together but at a deeper level where "every" person is miserable. Reading the poems you might think Blake has a narrow view of society (due to his restricted use of vocabulary), but this is not the case. He deliberately repeats words, such as "fears" and "tears". Blake's overall view on society is that there are a lot of restrictions, but there is a way to break free. That there is always misery, but that is how we've chosen to make the world. Blake also thinks that the hierarchy of society take pleasure in looking down at the poor and the needy and seek satisfaction by giving them 'hand-outs'. Although Blake's observation isn't all gloom for example he says in "The Human Abstract" of the "Humility" of society, this is showing that modesty and some things good can shine through the general evil of society. ...read more.

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