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William Blake (28 Nov 1757 – 12 Aug 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His prophetic poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language". Considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, Blake is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work.
The poetry of William Blake is far reaching in its scope and range of experience. The poems of William Blake can offer a profound symbolism and also a delightful childlike innocence. Whatever the inner meaning of Blake's poetry we can easily appreciate the beautiful language and lyrical quality of his poetic vision.
William Blake was born in London, where he spent most of his life. His father was a successful London hosier and attracted by the doctrines of Emmanuel Swedenborg. Blake was first educated at home, chiefly by his mother. His parents encouraged him to collect prints of the Italian masters, and in 1767 sent him to Henry Pars' drawing school. From his early years, he experienced visions of angels and ghostly monks, he saw and conversed with the angel Gabriel, the Virgin Mary, and various historical figures. These memories never left him and influenced his poetry throughout his life.
His early poems Blake wrote at the age of twelve. However, being early apprenticed to a manual occupation, journalistic-social career was not open to him. His first book of poems, Poetical Sketches, appeared in 1783 and was followed by Songs of Innocence (1789), and Songs of Experience (1794). His most famous poem, 'The Tyger', was part of his Songs of Experience. Typical for Blake's poems were long, flowing lines and violent energy, combined with aphoristic clarity and moments of lyric tenderness.
In 1790 Blake engraved The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell, a book of paradoxical aphorisms and his principal prose work. The work expressed Blake's revolt against the established values of his time: "Prisons are built with stones of Law, brothels with bricks of Religion." Radically he sided with the Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost and attacked the conventional religious views in a series of aphorisms. But the poet's life in the realms of images did not please his wife who once remarked: "I have very little of Mr. Blake's company. He is always in Paradise." Some of Blake's contemporaries called him a harmless lunatic.
The Blakes moved south of the Thames to Lambeth in 1790. During this time Blake began to work on his 'prophetic books', where he expressed his lifelong concern with the struggle of the soul to free its natural energies from reason and organized religion. He wrote America: A Prophesy (1793), The Book Of Urizen (1794), and The Song Of Los (1795). Blake hated the effects of the Industrial Revolution in England and looked forward to the establishment of a New Jerusalem "in England's green and pleasant land." Between 1804 and 1818 he produced an edition of his own poem Jerusalem with 100 engravings.
In 1800 Blake was taken up by the wealthy William Hayley, poet and patron of poets. The Blakes lived in Hayley's house at Felpham in Sussex, staying there for three years. At Felpham Blake worked on Milton: a Poem in Two Books, to Justify the Ways of God to Men. It was finished and engraved between 1803 and 1808. In 1809 Blake had a commercially unsuccessful exhibition at the shop once owned by his brother. However, economic problems did not depress him, but he continued to produce energetically poems, aphorisms, and engravings. "The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction," he wrote.
Independent through his life, Blake left no debts at his death on August 12, 1827. He was buried in an unmarked grave at the public cemetery of Bunhill Fields. Wordsworth's verdict after Blake's death reflected many opinions of the time: "There was no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott." Blake's influence grew through Pre-Raphealites and W.B. Yeats especially in Britain. His interest in legend was revived with the Romantics' rediscovery of the past, especially the Gothic and medieval. In the 1960s Blake's work was acclaimed by the Underground movement. T.S. Eliot wrote in his essay on Blake that "the concentration resulting from a framework of mythology and theology and philosophy is one of the reasons why Dante is a classic and Blake only a poet of genius."
Bibliography Illuminated books 1788: All Religions are One 1789: Songs of Innocence 1790–1793: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell 1793-1795: Continental prophecies 1793: Visions of the Daughters of Albion 1794: Europe a Prophecy 1795: The Book of Los 1804–1811: Milton a Poem 1804–1820: Jerusalem Non-illuminated 1783: Poetical Sketches 1784-5: An Island in the Moon 1789: Tiriel 1791: The French Revolution 1797: The Four Zoas
THE SHEPHERD How sweet is the Shepherd's sweet lot! From the morn to the evening he strays; He shall follow his sheep all the day, And his tongue shall be filled with praise. For he hears the lamb's innocent call, And he hears the ewe's tender reply; He is watchful while they are in peace, For they know when their Shepherd is nigh. Как завиден удел твой, пастух. Ты встаешь, когда солнце встает, Гонишь кроткое стадо на луг, И свирель твоя славу поет. Зов ягнят, матерей их ответ Летним утром ласкают твой слух. Стадо знает: опасности нет, Ибо с ним его чуткий пастух. Перевод С. Я. Маршака
THE SICK ROSE О Rose, thou art sick! The invisible worm, That flies in the night, In the howling storm, Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy; And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy. О роза, ты гибнешь! Червь, миру незрим, В рокотании бури, Под покровом ночным Высмотрел ложе Алого сна твоего И потайной и мрачной любовью Губит твое естество. Перевод А. Парина В представлениях Блейка любовь - это чисто духовное переживание, непримиримое с физическим инстинктом, символом которого является червь в данном стихотворении и других произведениях, изображающих мир Познания.
SOFT SNOW I walked abroad on a snowy day: I ask'd the soft Snow with me to play: She play'd and she melted in all her prime; And the Winter call'd it a dreadful crime. Бродил я однажды по зимним тропинкам. - Со мной поиграйте! - сказал я снежинкам. - Играли - и таяли... Их поведенью Зима ужасалась, как грехопаденью. Перевод В. А. Потаповой
LAUGHING SONG When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy, And the dimpling stream runs laughing by; When the air does laugh with our merry wit, And the green hill laughs with the noise of it; When the meadows laugh with lively green, And the grasshopper laughs in the merry scene, When Mary and Susan and Emily With their sweet round mouths sing 'Ha, Ha, He!' When the painted birds laugh in the shade, Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread, Come live, and be merry, and join with me, To sing the sweet chorus of 'Ha, Ha, He!' В час, когда листва шелестит, смеясь, И смеется ключ, меж камней змеясь, И смеемся, даль взбудоражив, мы, И со смехом шлют нам ответ холмы, И смеется рожь и хмельной ячмень, И кузнечик рад хохотать весь день, И вдали звенит, словно гомон птиц, "Ха-ха-ха! Ха-ха!" - звонкий смех девиц, А в тени ветвей стол накрыт для всех, И, смеясь, трещит меж зубов орех, - В этот час приди, не боясь греха, Посмеяться всласть: "Хо-хо-хо! Ха-ха!" Перевод С. Я. Маршака
THE DIVINE IMAGE To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love All pray in their distress; And to these virtues of delight Return their thankfulness. For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love Is God, our Father dear, And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love Is man, His child and care. For Mercy has a human heart, Pity a human face, And Love, the human form divine, And Peace, the human dress. Then every man, of every clime, That prays in his distress, Prays to the human form divine, Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace. And all must love the human form, In heathen, Turk, or Jew; Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell There God is dwelling too. Добро, Смиренье, Мир, Любовь - Вот перечень щедрот, Которых каждый человек, Моля и плача, ждет. Добро, Смиренье, Мир, Любовь Познал в себе Творец, Добро, Смиренье, Мир, Любовь Вложил в детей Отец. И наше сердце у Добра, И наш - Смиренья взгляд, И в нашем образе - Любовь, Мир - наш нательный плат. Любой из нас, в любой стране, Зовет, явясь на свет, Добро, Смиренье, Мир, Любовь - Иной молитвы нет. И нехристь - тоже человек, И в том любви залог: Где Мир, Смиренье и Любовь, - Там, ведомо, сам Бог. Перевод В. Л. Топорова