Wednesday, September 26, 2012

William Blake: A Conversation Piece

Let me return to a more literary turn here. I am currently working on a paper on William Blake (well, on two of his poems). And I am reminded of how colorful a conversation piece is Blake.

The first teacher who taught us Blake in detail was a major Blake enthusiast, so even though I wasn't completely charmed by all his work, it was enjoyable material to study because of her enthusiasm. And it's a similar case this semester. We read portions (again, and among other things) from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which I somehow hate reading and find very difficult to get through. But much of what we went over in class was still intriguing.

As were the illustrations that we looked at--I don't think I've ever had a class where we spent so much time on the illustrations Blake intended to go along with his poems. That was a big missing piece. As I wrote the first section of my paper, I was constantly referring back to images of the originals. Some of his illustrations are . . . odd, but some help give a certain tone to the texts. "The Sick Rose," for instance, gains so much from being viewed in its original, illustrated state.

While I spend time with my two poems for this paper, I find myself warming up to them. But do I like Blake yet? I don't know: there is still something almost disconcerting about him. It reminds me of my thoughts on Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray; while that's a wonderfully written book and a rather interesting one, I can't quite accept it on a personal (not literary) level. Is it the same with Blake? I can't argue with his idea that both positive and negative forces make up the universe and that both have to be acknowledged. And I'm not calling him an amoral madman. So what bothers me, then? Is it just something in his writing style?

I suppose only more study will bring me to the answer.

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