English Poetry. William Blake
- 1 Works
- 2 Works about Blake
- 2.1 Biographies
- 2.2 Articles from reference works
- 2.3 Other
- 3 Links
Works [ edit ]
- Poetical Sketches (1769–1777, printed 1783)
- «then She bore Pale desire…» (fragment, before 1777)
- An Island in the Moon (unfinished c.1787)
- Songs of Innocence 1789
- The Shepherd
- The Echoing Green
- The Lamb
- The Little Black Boy
- The Blossom
- The Chimney Sweeper
- The Little Boy Lost
- The Little Boy Found
- Laughing Song
- A Cradle Song
- The Divine Image
- Holy Thursday
- Nurse’s Song
- Infant Joy
- A Dream
- On Another’s Sorrow
- There is no Natural Religion 1788
- All Religions are One 1788
- The Book of Thel (1789)
- To Nobodaddy
- The French Revolution unpublished (1791)
- Prospectus to the Public 1793
- The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Between 1790 & 1793)
- Proverbs of Hell
- of the Gates
- To The Accuser who is The God of This World
- Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793)
- The Gates of Paradise 1793
- America a Prophecy (1793)
- A Prophecy
- Europe a Prophecy (1794)
- A Prophecy
- The Book of Urizen (1794)
- Songs of Experience 1794 (transcription project)
- Earth’s Answer
- The Clod and the Pebble
- Holy Thursday
- The Little Girl Lost
- The Little Girl Found
- The Chimney-Sweeper
- Nurse’s Song
- The Sick Rose
- The Fly
- The Angel
- The Tyger
- My Pretty Rose Tree
- Ah, Sunflower
- The Lily
- The Garden of Love
- The Little Vagabond
- The Human Abstract
- Infant Sorrow
- A Poison Tree
- A Little Boy Lost
- A Little Girl Lost
- A Divine Image
- A Cradle Song
- The Schoolboy
- To Tirzah
- The Voice of the Ancient Bard
- The Book of Ahania (1795)
- The Book of Los 1795
- The Song of Los 1795
- Vala, or The Four Zoas 1797 – 1803
- Milton, a Poem in 2 Books. 1804 — 1809 (1821)
- Preface, including the verse known as Jerusalem
- Book the First
- Book the Second
- Descriptive Catalogue 1809
- Sibylline Leaves. On Homer’s poetry, On Virgil. 1818
- Jerusalem. The Emanation of the Giant Albion 1804 – 1820
- To the Jews
- A Vision of the Last Judgment
- The Everlasting Gospel (complete) / The Everlasting Gospel (fragments)
- Do what you will this life’s a fiction
- Letters of William Blake
- [Los the Terrible] With happiness stretchd across the hills. . From the letter to Thomas Butts, 22 November 1802
- Songs and Ballads
- Notebook (or «Rossetti Manuscript») c.1787 – c.1818
- I Heard an Angel
- Silent, Silent Night
- I saw a chapel all of gold
- «Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau»
- The Ballads (or «Pickering Manuscript»)
- The Smile
- The Golden Net
- The Mental Traveller
- The Land of Dreams
- The Crystal Cabinet
- The Grey Monk
- Auguries of Innocence
- Long John Brown & Little Mary Bell
- William Bond
- Notebook (or «Rossetti Manuscript») c.1787 – c.1818
- Satiric verses and epigrams from Blake’s Notebook
- Motto to the Songs of Innocence & of Experience
- Let the Brothels of Paris be opened
- He is a Cock would
- And his legs carried it like a long fork
- Some Men created for destruction come
- Blake’s apology for his Catalogue
- Cosway Frazer & Baldwin of Egypts Lake
- The Errors of a Wise Man make your Rule
- Laocoon (c. 1826-7)
- Illustrations of the Book of Job
As illustrator (only)
Works about Blake [ edit ]
Biographies [ edit ]
- Notes on Blake the illustrator from «Introduction,» A Father’s Memoirs of his Child by B. H. Malkin (illustrations by Blake), 1805, pp. xviii-xli.
- Extracts from the Diary, Letters, and Reminiscences of Henry Crabb Robinson (transcribed from the Original MSS. in Dr. Williams’s Library, 1810-1852) in William Blake edited by Symons, 1907, Part II («Records from contemporary sources»).
- Obituary Notices in the ‘Literary Gazette’ and ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’, reprinted in William Blake, 1907 (edited by Symons) 1827
- «William Blake.» The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. Vol. 2. Cunningham. 1830. 140-79.
- [[William Blake (Symons)/Life Of Blake. By Allan Cunningham|Reprint]] in William Blake by Arthur Symons, 1907.
- Life of William Blake, by Alexander Gilchrist, D. G. Rossetti, W. M. Rossetti, Anne Gilchrist, 1863 (1880)
- Biography in Nollekens and His Times by J. T. Smith, 1829
- «Essay on Blake,» James Smetham, London Quarterly Review, January 1869.
- Reprint: Essay on Blake by James Smetham in Gilchrist, Life of William Blake (1880), Volume 2
- «Life of Blake,» Frederick Tatham, MS., reprinted in The Letters of William Blake together with His Life by F. Tatham, A. G. B. Russell ed., 1906
- William Blake (1910), by Gilbert Keith Chesterton
Articles from reference works [ edit ]
- Redgrave, Samuel (1878), «Blake, William» in A Dictionary of Artists of the English School: 44–45.
- «Blake, William,» in The Nuttall Encyclopædia, (ed.) by James Wood, London: Frederick Warne and Co., Ltd. (1907)
- «Blake, William,» in A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, by John William Cousin, London: J. M. Dent & Sons (1910)
- «Blake, William (1757-1827),» in Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, London: Smith, Elder, & Co. (1885–1900) in 63 vols. Gilchrist, Anne
- «Blake, William,» in The New International Encyclopædia, New York: Dodd, Mead and Co. (1905)
- «Blake, William,» in Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed., 1911)
- «William Blake, Poet and Painter», by Edmund Clarence Stedman from Genius, and other essays (1911; piece originally published in 15 January 1881 issue of The Critic).
Other [ edit ]
- Postscript of Letter to The Rev. H. F. Cary, 6 February 1818 by Coleridge
- Fragment of a Letter to Charles Augustus Tulk, 12 February 1818 by Coleridge
- Extract from Diary illustrative of the Times of George the Fourth, by Lady Charlotte Bury, 1820
- Blake’s Horoscope reprint, originally in Urania, or the Astrologers Choice. 1825
- extract from Varley’s Zodiacal Physiognomy, 1828.
- “The Poems of William Blake,” essay by James Thomson, 1865
- William Blake, a critical essay (1868), by Algernon Charles Swinburne
- Poetical sketches by William Blake: now first reprinted from the original edition of 1783. Edited by R H Shepherd. 1868
- The works of William Blake, poetic, symbolic and critical 3 volume edition, edited by Ellis (introduction) and W. B. Yeats, 1893
- William Blake, his life, character and genius by A. T. Story, 1893
- William Blake, Painter and Poet by R. Garnett, 1895
- Facsimile of the original outlines before colouring of the Songs of Innocence and of Experience 1893. Edited by Ellis (introduction)
- The prophetic books of William Blake, Milton, with an Introduction 1904. Edited by Maclagan, E.R.D.; Russell, A.G.B.
- The prophetic books of William Blake, Jerusalem, as above,
- The poetical works of William Blake a new and verbatim text . edited and annotated by John Sampson, 1905. (transcription project)
- The poetical works of William Blake, including the unpublished ‘French Revolution’, together with . edited and annotated by John Sampson, 1913. (transcription project)
- William Blake in his relation to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, by J. C. E. Bassalik-de Vries (1911)
- «An Early Appreciation of William Blake». The Library, volume 5, series 3 by K. A. Esdaile 1914
- Blake in The Sacred Wood, by T.S. Eliot, 1920.
- The Sanity of William Blake 1920 by Greville MacDonald
- Bibliography of William Blake 1921 by Geoffrey Keynes
- Blake, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Lamb, etc., being selections from the Remains of Henry Crabb Robinson 1922 E D Morley
- The Writings of William Blake (complete edition) 3 volumes, 1925. by Geoffrey Keynes
Links [ edit ]
- William Blake in Bibliowiki
Works by this author published before January 1, 1926 are in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago. Translations or editions published later may be copyrighted. Posthumous works may be copyrighted based on how long they have been published in certain countries and areas.
The greatest poems by William Blake selected by Dr Oliver Tearle
William Blake (1757-1827) is one of the key figures of English Romanticism, and a handful of his poems are universally known thanks to their memorable phrases and opening lines. Blake frequently spoke out against injustice in his own lifetime: slavery, racism, poverty, and the corruption of those in power. In this post we’ve chosen what we consider to be ten of the best William Blake poems, along with links to each of them.
The hymn called ‘Jerusalem’ is surrounded by misconceptions, legend, and half-truths. Blake wrote the words which the composer Hubert Parry later set to music, but Blake didn’t call his poem ‘Jerusalem’, and instead the famous words that form the lyrics of the hymn are merely one part of a longer poem, a poem which Blake called Milton. The poem has been read as a satire of the rampant jingoism and Christian feeling running through England during the Napoleonic Wars, and has even been described as anti-patriotic, despite the patriotic nature of the hymn it inspired. It features the famous, rousing lines:
Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
Follow the link above to read the full poem and learn the true story behind it.
I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
This is one of Blake’s finest poems. In ‘London’, Blake describes the things he sees when he wanders through the streets of London: signs of misery and weakness can be discerned on everyone’s face. Every man’s voice – even the cry of every infant, a child who hasn’t even learnt to talk yet – conveys this sense of oppression. It’s as if everyone is being kept in slavery, but the manacles they wear are not literal ones, but mental – ‘mind-forg’d’ – ones.
The poem has been interpreted as a response to the French Revolution, and Blake’s wish that Englanders would follow suit and rise up against the authorities and power structures which tyrannised over them.
This little poem seems to be very straightforward, but its meaning remains elusive. Is the worm that destroys the rose a symbol of death? By contrast, roses are often associated with love, beauty, and the erotic. In Blake’s poem we get several hints that such a reading is tenable: the rose is in a ‘bed’, suggesting not just its flowerbed but also the marriage bed; not only this, but it is a bed of ‘crimson joy’, which is not quite as strong a suggestion of sex and eroticism as ‘scarlet joy’ would have been, but nevertheless bristles with more than simple colour-description.
Blake originally gave ‘A Poison Tree’ the title ‘Christian Forbearance’. It begins:
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
The speaker of the poem tells us that when he was angry with his friend he simply told his friend that he was annoyed, and that put an end to his bad feeling. But when he was angry with his enemy, he didn’t air his grievance to this foe, and so the anger grew. The implication of this ‘poison tree’ is that anger and hatred start to eat away at oneself: hatred always turns inward, corrupting into self-hatred.
This powerful and curious little poem is about the power of anger to become corrupted into something far more deadly and devious if it is not aired honestly. The enemy may have stolen the apple (and trespassed on the speaker’s property – he ‘stole’ into his garden, after all), but he was deceived into thinking that something deadly and poisonous (the speaker’s anger) was something nice and tasty (the apple).
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
The opening line of this poem, ‘Tyger! Tyger! burning bright’, is among the most famous lines in all of William Blake’s poetry. Accompanied by a painting of an altogether cuddlier tiger than the ‘Tyger’ depicted by the poem itself, ‘The Tyger’ first appeared in the 1794 collection Songs of Experience, which contains many of Blake’s most celebrated poems. The Songs of Experience was designed to complement Blake’s earlier collection, Songs of Innocence (1789), and ‘The Tyger’ should be seen as the later volume’s answer to ‘The Lamb’ (see below).
Framed as a series of questions, ‘Tyger Tyger, burning bright’ (as the poem is also often known) sees Blake’s speaker wondering about the creator responsible for such a fearsome creature as the tiger. The fiery imagery used throughout the poem conjures the tiger’s aura of danger: fire equates to fear. Don’t get too close to the tiger, Blake’s poem seems to say, otherwise you’ll get burnt.
6. ‘The Clod and the Pebble’.
‘Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.’
So sung a little Clod of Clay
Trodden with the cattle’s feet …
This poem is about two contrasting ideas of love – the ‘clod’ of clay representing a selfless and innocent kind of love and the ‘pebble’ in a brook symbolising love’s more pragmatic, selfish side.
My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but O! my soul is white;
White as an angel is the English child:
But I am black as if bereav’d of light …
Blake published ‘The Little Black Boy’ in 1789 and the poem can be seen in part as an indictment of slavery. Blake’s poem gives a voice to a black boy born into slavery, whose skin is black but, he maintains, his soul is white. ‘White’ here suggests purity and innocence, that central theme in Blake’s poems of 1789.
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
So begins the counterpoint poem to ‘The Tyger’, or rather, ‘The Tyger’ is the ‘experience’ version of this ‘innocence’ poem. The lamb is a well-known symbol for Jesus Christ, and Blake draws on this association in this poem, telling the lamb that it was its namesake, the Lamb (i.e. the Lamb of God) who made the lamb, along with all living things. The composer John Tavener set ‘The Lamb’ to music.
In this poem, Blake’s speaker goes into the Garden of Love and finds a chapel built on the spot where he used to play as a child. The gates of the chapel are shut, and commandments and prohibitions are written over the door. The garden has become a graveyard, its flowers replaced by tombstones. This idea of love starting out as a land of liberty and promise but ending up a world of death and restriction is expressed very powerfully through the image of the garden:
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green …
See the link above to read the full poem (and learn more about it).
Never seek to tell thy love
Love that never told can be
For the gentle wind does move
Silently invisibly …
This untitled poem, written in around 1793, would have to wait 70 years to see publication, when the Pre-Raphaelite poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti included it in his edition of Blake’s poems in 1863. The poem suggests that sometimes it’s best not to confess one’s love but to keep it secret. In one manuscript version of the poem, the first line actually reads ‘Never pain to tell thy love’, but many subsequent editors have altered ‘pain’ to ‘seek’.
About William Blake
William Blake (1757-1827) is one of the key English poets of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He is sometimes grouped with the Romantics, such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, although much of his work stands apart from them and he worked separately from the Lake Poets.
Blake’s key themes are religion (verses from his poem Milton furnished the lyrics for the patriotic English hymn ‘Jerusalem’), poverty and the poor, and the plight of the most downtrodden or oppressed within society. He is not a ‘nature’ poet in the same way that his fellow Romantics are: he seldom writes with the countryside in mind as his principal theme, but draws on, for instance, the rich symbolism of the rose and the worm to create a poem that is symbolically suggestive and clearly about other things (sin, religion, shame, cruelty, evil).
In form and language, Blake’s poetry can appear deceptively simple. He is fond of the quatrain form and short lines (usually tetrameter, i.e., containing four ‘feet’). But his imagery and symbolism are often dense and complex, requiring deeper analysis to penetrate and unravel their manifold meanings.
If you’re looking for a good edition of Blake’s work, we recommend the affordable Oxford Selected Poetry (Oxford World’s Classics) .
The author of this article, Dr Oliver Tearle, is a literary critic and lecturer in English at Loughborough University. He is the author of, among others, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History and The Great War, The Waste Land and the Modernist Long Poem.
Image: Watercolour portrait of William Blake by Thomas Phillips, 1807; Wikimedia Commons.