William Blake Was Born Term Paper

Pages: 6 (2102 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature


Thel speaks with things that are, like herself, natural, modest, gentle, and seemingly insignificant, such as the lily that is 'breathing in the humble grass' that feeds grazing animals and nurtures the worm, and is thus an intrinsic part of God's great system of creation, as are the cloud, the 'Clod of Clay' and the worm (Poems 39-40). At the end Thel goes into the earth itself to hear the voice of her own grave -- a dramatic way of illustrating her descent from a form of Paradise into ordinary life. The point for Blake is that innocence must also be fertile -- it must express the natural energies of creation and divinity.

Thel is a long poem, but it is dwarfed by Blake's 'prophetic books' which are hundreds of lines in length. There are important continuities between Blake's shorter works and these epic poems, however, as will become clear if we examine 'America'. One of Blake's most important symbolic characters is introduced at the beginning of 'America': Orc, the embodiment of unconstrained spontaneous energy -- the same energy that is revealed to Thel as her true nature, and which terrifies her and provokes her to flight. Orc begins the poem in chains before the 'shadowy daughter' of Urthona (Poems, 63) who represents the repression of America under the British crown. Orc breaks lose and ravishes -- with her consent -- the daughter of Urthona, releasing the energies that mirror those of historical revolution in America:

... And thou art fall'n to give me life in regions of dark death.

On my American plains I feel the struggling afflictions ... (Poems 64)

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Blake goes on to introduce symbolic representations of Thomas Paine, author of The Rights of Man, and George III, last British king of America. The defeat of Britain's armies represents not only the fall of an unjust tyranny over America but a judgment upon England: 'The red fires rag'd! The plagues recoil'd! then roll'd they back with fury / On Albion's Angels' (Poems 68). The poem ends with America's freedom, but also with the prophecy that gives it its title: that British misdeeds abroad will ultimately recoil upon her:

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In terror view'd the bands of Albion and the ancient Guardians

Fainting upon the elements, smitten with their own plagues. (Poems 69)

Works such as 'America' suggest the huge scale of Blake's vision, that was to be even more extensively worked through in his other prophetic books. Blake's conception of history, and above all his belief in climatic transforming events involving the liberation of the natural creative energies that have been repressed by unnatural and destructive institutions -- embodied in the grim character of Urizen -- drives his view of creation. Through his poetry and artistry he depicts history as a progressive process of energy-filled cosmic regeneration, in which a Fall (similar to that contained in the Bible story of Genesis, or Milton's 'Paradise Lost') from primal innocence into mundane experience can be redeemed through the transformation of the human spirit into a regenerated and eternal innocence. This process can only take place once hypocrisy, tyranny, deceit and war have been overcome. Thus the message of Blake's turbulent poetic art is ultimately one of peace and harmony, attained through struggle and creative energy.


Bentley, G.E. (ed.) (1975). William Blake: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge.

Bottrall, M. (ed.) (1970). William Blake: Songs of Innocence and Experience. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Bronowski, J. (1972). William Blake and the Age… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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