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In his poetry, Blake writes about his thoughts concerning the society around him. Comment on Blake’s attitudes in several poems of your choice and explain how effective the poems are in presenting his views.

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Introduction

In his poetry, Blake writes about his thoughts concerning the society around him. Comment on Blake's attitudes in several poems of your choice and explain how effective the poems are in presenting his views. William Blake, who lived in the latter half of the eighteenth century and the early part of the nineteenth, was partly responsible for bringing about the Romantic movement in poetry. He was also an accomplished painter and engraver, able to achieve "remarkable results with the simplest of means". Blake was a social critic of his own time and considered himself a prophet of times to come; however, his work was not fully appreciated in the mainstream until a century and a half after his death. William Blake lived during a time of intense social change: the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution all occurred during his lifetime. These changes gave Blake a chance to see one of the most dramatic stages in the transformation of the Western world where philosophers and political thinkers championed the right to opinion. Some of these changes had Blake's approval; others did not. The poems Holy Thursday, The Schoolboy and London all offer evidence of Blake's keen social viewpoints. 'Holy Thursday', found in Blake's Songs of Experience, exhibits the poet's views on 19th century establishment. ...read more.

Middle

Blake does not believe that sitting in a classroom studying a textbook can truly discern knowledge upon young students, this view exhibited by the line 'Nor in my book can I take delight'. Adopting a largely symbolic-based questioning style, the fourth stanza (and, indeed, the rest of the of the poem) takes a somewhat different approach to exhibiting the social viewpoints of the poet. Blake compares the trapped existence of children in the 19th century to a bird locked in a cage, unable to truly express itself with the restrictions placed upon its experiences and imagination. The poet goes on to draw the conclusion that once a child's development has been restricted by school, the rest of the individual's life is permanently effected. This point is delivered in a symbolistic manner with Blake adopting the phrase 'youthful spring' to refer to the child's younger years. The fifth and sixth verses draw from each other to create an overall image of a child's life being spoilt by education in the same way a crop is spoilt by natural means. Representation such as 'blossoms blown away' refers to the corruption of a young and beautiful body being distorted by disparaging but socially acceptable natural forces. The poem ends with Blake offering consideration if a student's school life affects the child even in old age. ...read more.

Conclusion

The ending of this poem is another perhaps more subtle example of Blake's dislike for the disingenuous social culture of his time. In conclusion, William Blake's poems are very successful in presenting his social viewpoints. Using relatively simple language, subtle irony and sarcasm, powerful imagery and easily identifiable meanings, Blake makes sure that his points get across to the reader. It is easy to see that the Songs of Innocence and Experience are not just idle words that have wandered onto a piece of paper: Blake wrote each of his poems for a purpose and with a clear significance. William Blake was a man fighting against the mainstream opinions of 19th society. His strong willed independent attitudes meant that no matter what the odds, he would 'stick to his guns'. Blake had an intense dislike for government and other established ruling bodies. He believed that people would lead happier lives if left to their own devices, unrestricted by rules or regulations. William Blake was also great critic of the church, viewing them as wretched hypocrites in the battle against the evils of society. Even in today's modern era, the central themes of his poems (poverty, social injustice, the church) still remain relevant and Blake serves a wonderful icon for those battling against such political constraints. Although his work was not truly appreciated until a century and a half after his death, Blake was a undoubtedly a genius of his time. Stephen Reid 10G ...read more.

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