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William Blake - nature liberates man imprisons

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Introduction

'In Blake's view of the world, nature liberates: man imprisons'. How far does your reading of the Selected Poems lead you to agree? Blake explores the idea of mankind v nature a great deal in his poems, and to a certain extent, the general consensus seems to be that nature liberates and man imprisons. The poem London in particular shows this opinion. It expresses bitter indignation against the state of society, of mankind. The trochaic rhythm has a mechanical aspect, emphasising the feeling of despair 'In every cry of every man', and Blake's repetition, thudding and oppressive, reflects the suffocating atmosphere of the manmade city. The hypocrisy of man is attacked in this poem. The 'hapless Soldier's sigh Runs in blood down Palace walls' implies that the King uses the lives of his soldiers to maintain his luxury lifestyle - this was stated at the time of the Napoleonic wars. The Church is presented as 'black'ning', the colour of death and symbolic of the Chimney Sweeper's lightless lives. The Church is criticised in much of Blake's poetry, especially for its ability to imprison society. In The Garden of Love, Blake shows his outrage at the oppressive nature of the rules of religion 'Thou shalt not...binding with briars my joys and desires' highlighting how organised religion does not bring the grace one would expect, only restrictions. ...read more.

Middle

Here, the rhyming couplets and regular structure are used to present a feeling of imprisonment. The baby is an unwanted child, produced in Joylessness and this is the birth of a representative citizen of Blake's London. It is already in the process of forging its own mental manacles. The child is born out of the mother's pain, and this pain is accentuated by the misery that the father's tears suggest. Tears possibly for the extra burden that the child constitutes. Feeling itself in a dangerous world, feeling unwanted and being joyless, it strives against its parents and against the bonds that are immediately applied to it. Unwanted children are not uncommon in Blake's poetry. In the poem The Chimney Sweeper of Innocence, the child's father 'sold me while yet my 'tongue could scarcely cry 'weep!' 'weep!' 'weep!''. This phrase highlights how young the child was, and reflects the 'marks of woe' explored in 'London'. The child has been brought into a world, described in Holy Thursday as 'a rich and fruitful land, Babes reduc'd to misery'. This use of opposite highlights the unfairness of the sweeps situation. Holy Thursday can be used to show Blake's opinion that nature liberates, because the children are in a land of poverty 'where their sun does never shine' - showing the importance of nature in liberation. ...read more.

Conclusion

The final two lines are linked by the logical conjunction 'for', which proposes a conditional relationship between the flock's peace and the Shepherd being present. In this poem, nature does not represent liberation as the sheep are restricted by the Shepherd - not unlike the Church restricting the people. Also, the Tyger does not show nature as being liberating. The trochaic rhythm brings a powerful drumbeat, and although a totally different poem has a feeling of imprisonment like London. Repetition of 'symmetry' has a similar effect and shows that the tyger's beauty is so wonderful it is terrifying. Much of the making of the tyger is likened to heavy industrial work, 'fire', 'hammer', 'chain' and 'furnace' which associates the tyger with the Industrial Revolution and the enslavement of the population. This directly contrasts the idea that nature symbolises liberation. To a great extent I believe Blake's poetry is of the opinion that nature liberates and man imprisons. There is no evidence in his poetry that he believes mankind liberates, it is only nature and supreme beings such as the Angel in the Chimney Sweeper of Innocence that have such power. However, nature does not always liberate, highlighting that it is not just man that has the power to imprison. ...read more.

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