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Blake: Selected Poetry

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By turns a haunting lyricist, an apocalyptic visionary, and an unorthodox thinker, Blake was for years ignored or derided. Sustained by his belief in the artistic imagination, he drafted poetry, prose visions, and epigrams, and manufactured beautiful illustrated volumes of his lyrics and verse narratives. Towards the end of his life, Blake's unique and irreducible talent w By turns a haunting lyricist, an apocalyptic visionary, and an unorthodox thinker, Blake was for years ignored or derided. Sustained by his belief in the artistic imagination, he drafted poetry, prose visions, and epigrams, and manufactured beautiful illustrated volumes of his lyrics and verse narratives. Towards the end of his life, Blake's unique and irreducible talent was recognized by a group of younger artists, who rescued much of his achievement from oblivion.


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By turns a haunting lyricist, an apocalyptic visionary, and an unorthodox thinker, Blake was for years ignored or derided. Sustained by his belief in the artistic imagination, he drafted poetry, prose visions, and epigrams, and manufactured beautiful illustrated volumes of his lyrics and verse narratives. Towards the end of his life, Blake's unique and irreducible talent w By turns a haunting lyricist, an apocalyptic visionary, and an unorthodox thinker, Blake was for years ignored or derided. Sustained by his belief in the artistic imagination, he drafted poetry, prose visions, and epigrams, and manufactured beautiful illustrated volumes of his lyrics and verse narratives. Towards the end of his life, Blake's unique and irreducible talent was recognized by a group of younger artists, who rescued much of his achievement from oblivion.

30 review for Blake: Selected Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    The Angel that presided o’er my birth Said, ‘Little creature, form’d of Joy & Mirth, Go love, without the help of any Thing on Earth.’ As I’ve said before, I feel a bit uncomfortable reviewing poetry. I don’t have the proper tools; I lack the vocabulary. Critiquing poetry, to me, is like critiquing a human body. I don’t know why one face pleases me, and another pleases me not; I simply couldn’t say why I find one shape shapely, and another shape misshapen. When I see a pleasing face or an att The Angel that presided o’er my birth Said, ‘Little creature, form’d of Joy & Mirth, Go love, without the help of any Thing on Earth.’ As I’ve said before, I feel a bit uncomfortable reviewing poetry. I don’t have the proper tools; I lack the vocabulary. Critiquing poetry, to me, is like critiquing a human body. I don’t know why one face pleases me, and another pleases me not; I simply couldn’t say why I find one shape shapely, and another shape misshapen. When I see a pleasing face or an attractive form, I respond automatically; and the same might be said for my reactions to poetry. William Blake makes this job even more difficult, as he was, in the truest sense of the word, an individual. How does one evaluate a totally idiosyncratic artist? It seems impossible; all evaluations, either explicitly or implicitly, involve comparison. But when somebody is so aloof and peculiar as was Blake, comparisons seem somehow inappropriate. Well, I’ll stop caviling, and on with it. There is a childlike innocence to many of Blake’s poems. Some of them have the gentle sing-song rhythm of a lullaby; the words seem to rock you back and forth, lulling you into a dreamy peace. Blake’s early poems, in particular, are totally free of cynicism and disenchantment; rather, they are direct, honest, wide-eyed. To see the World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. Married to this total innocence, however, is an intense spirituality. Blake is a textbook mystic. Perhaps the closest poet to Blake that I’ve read is Whitman. Like Whitman, Blake is scornful of organized, traditional, Puritanical religion. Rather, he sees God in every blade of grass, and considers the body a source of delight, rather than of sin. All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors. 1. That Man has two real existing principles, Viz: a Body & a Soul. 2. That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul. 3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his energies. In terms of pure poetic skill, Blake is no match for a Milton, a Donne, or a Whitman. Indeed, that sort of thing seems not to interest him. He has not a great talent for aphorism; he is not eminently quotable. The poems are not meant to be unraveled or chewed; you will not be left puzzled or bewildered. Verbal ingenuity is not, in short, Blake’s strength; and if Blake is read with that purpose in mind, you are sure to be disappointed. His aim is instead to disarm you, to make you let down your guard; his poetry is, in fact, almost conversational. Blake knew he was something of an oddball; but he was too wise to think himself any the worse for it. His poetry, then, is a kind of invitation into his personal world. My mother groan’d! my father wept, Into the dangerous world I leapt, Helpless, naked, piping loud, Like a fiend hid in a cloud. And indeed, this world gets more odd and fanciful the longer you stay with him. Blake’s later poetry is considerably more obscure than his earlier work. He seems, in fact, to have invented his own mythology; and the poems from this period are little more than tales and visions of his personal gods and heroes and demons. It is certainly odd; but it is oddly alluring. If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern. Part of the reason books are so fascinating is because people are so fascinating. Right before reading this collection, I read a collection of Donne’s poetry. The juxtaposition is telling. Both men are mystics, both men are sensualists, both men are aloof individuals. Yet Donne is intellectual, anguished, and strained; Blake is direct, joyful, effortless. At least, this is my impression. It is odd trying to get to know somebody purely through their poetry; it is rather like trying to get to know somebody by rummaging through their trash. We are forced to guess at what’s locked inside by shifting through what’s shed.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alice Lippart

    This felt like visiting an old friend, as I've read quite a bit of Blakes poetry before. Still love it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    A small collection of poems from 18th century Englishman William Blake. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, and viewed in some quarters as a madman, it wasn't until later his work was regarded as grand. Along with his paintings, he would be part of the 'Romantic Movement', and was also strongly influenced by the Church, politics and historical revolutions. Made up of the 'Songs of Innocence & Experience', arguably his most famous work, they are charming poems, with the early ones that A small collection of poems from 18th century Englishman William Blake. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, and viewed in some quarters as a madman, it wasn't until later his work was regarded as grand. Along with his paintings, he would be part of the 'Romantic Movement', and was also strongly influenced by the Church, politics and historical revolutions. Made up of the 'Songs of Innocence & Experience', arguably his most famous work, they are charming poems, with the early ones that had me thinking of the British countryside on a summers day, sitting under a tree and looking yonder at the picturesque landscape. Sometimes it's the small and simple things that lead to much beauty, and like other easy on the eye poets, most are a joy to read, and so full of wonder. My favorites were 'Holy Thursday', 'Divine Image' and 'The Garden of Love'. A little Taste, 'The Lily' "The modest Rose puts forth a thorn, The humble sheep a threat'ning horn: While the lily white shall in love delight, Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright"

  4. 4 out of 5

    Exina

    It was a required reading at English poetry seminar in college. Nice collection.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anima

    Introduction ‘Here is a selection, a bit of Blake, designed as a bedside companion or to accompany a walk in the countryside, to sit beneath a shady tree and discover a portal into his visionary and musical experience.... Although much of his work seems impenetrable he never ceased in his desire to connect with the populace. He has succeeded in offering both. He has been the spiritual ancestor of generations of poets and alchemical detectives seeking their way through the labyrinth of inhuman kno Introduction ‘Here is a selection, a bit of Blake, designed as a bedside companion or to accompany a walk in the countryside, to sit beneath a shady tree and discover a portal into his visionary and musical experience.... Although much of his work seems impenetrable he never ceased in his desire to connect with the populace. He has succeeded in offering both. He has been the spiritual ancestor of generations of poets and alchemical detectives seeking their way through the labyrinth of inhuman knowledge even as schoolchildren recite his verses. His proverbs have become common parlance.‘ To the evening star ‘..... Smile on our loves, and while thou drawest the Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes, And wash the dusk with silver....’

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Clark

    Some of the poems were a tad confusing at first, but after a second look became clearer. They all have very deliberate word choices and are quite well written. An enjoyable collection of his poems.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lee Bay

    Really loved this book, there were quite a few poems in it that I wasn't huge on, but overall this was just a really great book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Johan Thilander

    Läste denna tillsammans med Olga Tokarczuks Styr din plog över de dödas ben, och läste därför framförallt ur "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" och "The Pickering Manuscript". Dubbelläsningen funkade jättebra och Olgas bok berikades verkligen av den. Blake för egen del är väldigt bra. Uppdatering: stod på tunnelbanestation vid Universitetet och råkade se att Blake är felciterad på kakelväggen de har där: "and eternity for an hour". Kul och dumt.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elspeth

    Blake focuses on religion a bit to much for my taste. I do like The Tyger, but that might be from reciting it in grade school, and it being the only poem that was familiar.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Okay, so I read this, and am afraid that it brought me to the conclusion that Blake is overrated. But glad to have read him, and there were some striking lines. Okay, so it was worth it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    ✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)

    This was my first time reading poems by William Blake and I can’t say I was terribly impressed. Admittedly, I don’t read much poetry but I do enjoy it once in a while. The main problem I had with these poems is that they made me feel like I was a 10-year-old schoolgirl again. They were simplistic, dreadfully unoriginal and quite boring. To me Blake’s poetry lacks rhythm and his verses lack fluidity. Definitely not the kind of poetry I enjoy reading.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    William Blake was an amazing poet, but he was also an amazing artist. Before now I was more familiar with his paintings and etchings then I was his poetry. His poetry range from romantic to religious. He has a wonderful way with words that can make you almost see what he is describing. This is my first time reading his words, but it will definitely not be my last. If you are a fellow lover of poetry, I recommend the poetry of William Blake.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Logan Dalton

    William Blake was a mystic poet who was not afraid to challenge the religious and political views of his day. Like the other Romantic poets, he creates beautiful images of nature especially in "Songs of Innocence); but he is not naive and understands the natural and moral evil that haunts the universe and provides haunting imagery of evil and demonic power. Blake also brings up some interesting philosophical questions in his longer poems The Everlasting Gospel and Marriage of Heaven and Hell whe William Blake was a mystic poet who was not afraid to challenge the religious and political views of his day. Like the other Romantic poets, he creates beautiful images of nature especially in "Songs of Innocence); but he is not naive and understands the natural and moral evil that haunts the universe and provides haunting imagery of evil and demonic power. Blake also brings up some interesting philosophical questions in his longer poems The Everlasting Gospel and Marriage of Heaven and Hell where he ponders if there is really a dichotomy between reason and desire. Blake's prophetic poems are slightly denser than his other works and derivative of other sources like the Bible and Paradise Lost, but they are a valiant attempt at world-building.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cameron H

    "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 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.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rob Dudek

    Cruelty has a human heart, And jealousy a human face; Terror the human form divine, And Secresy the human dress. I'm sensing that William Blake was a rather peculiar individual. Most of his poems aren't exactly what you would call quotable, but I think that it might be because that wasn't his intention in the first place. The poems themselves are quite brilliant actually (as far as my mind can conceive) however, in this particular volume Blake had a bit of a theme going on with a child-like percepti Cruelty has a human heart, And jealousy a human face; Terror the human form divine, And Secresy the human dress. I'm sensing that William Blake was a rather peculiar individual. Most of his poems aren't exactly what you would call quotable, but I think that it might be because that wasn't his intention in the first place. The poems themselves are quite brilliant actually (as far as my mind can conceive) however, in this particular volume Blake had a bit of a theme going on with a child-like perception of the world and unfortunately that is not my cup of tea - at least not in the way Blake had presented it. As a result, the book receives 3 stars from me. However, I also assume that due to the certain gaps in my vocabulary, I was not able to fully perceive the true beauty of the book/poems. Having said that, I think many people would agree that Blake had a unique style of writing and his work will not speak to everyone (in spite of one's abilities). For me, this is a sort of 'either love or hate' kind of work with a few of bits and pieces of clear ingenious thrown here and there. Though, I firmly believe it's well worth reading.

  16. 4 out of 5

    CaitlynK

    "Some say that Happiness is not Good for Mortals, & they ought to be answer'd that Sorrow is not fit for Immortals & is utterly useless to any one . . . ." Kept me up two nights in a row, and I finally read all of Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Smith did a good job curating, and in addition to plenty of poetry, I got to read a selection of Blake's letters (which made me feel better about my own tendency toward enthusiastic capitalization).

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    A fascinating collection of powerful poems that not only give you things to think about but also presents an amazing look into Blake's mind. With poems covering nearly every topic it's hard to not enjoy his collected works.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    I enjoyed this collection. Bought back memories of studying this poet in school.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    2.5*

  20. 5 out of 5

    Wow

    I truly wanted to venture into poetry and somehow get out of my comfort zone . While I truly found some really beautiful poems and loved how they made me ponder their true meaning, I just don't care about the rest ... The more this collection of poems sat in my nightstand the more I got disinterested in it and have stressed out about needing to finish it before the year ends. Now though I think that I should let it go and not burden myself with it in 2018. I think I need to explore more poets and t I truly wanted to venture into poetry and somehow get out of my comfort zone . While I truly found some really beautiful poems and loved how they made me ponder their true meaning, I just don't care about the rest ... The more this collection of poems sat in my nightstand the more I got disinterested in it and have stressed out about needing to finish it before the year ends. Now though I think that I should let it go and not burden myself with it in 2018. I think I need to explore more poets and their poetry , maybe different collections for sir Blake ... I feel mournful about DNFing it but I have to be honest with myself , I just don't see myself ever picking it up again.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alan Tomkins-Raney

    Reading Blake's poetry is a major trip...without any of the side effects or physical drawbacks of actual drugs. The commentary that introduces each section is invaluable for fully understanding and appreciating Blake's amazing talent. The man was a genius and a prophet. Edify yourself; read some Blake.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Routh

    "And I made a rural pen, And I stain'd the water clear, And I wrote my happy songs Every child may joy to hear."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    learned first draft was written ; "Did he laugh His work to see?" makes me chuckle.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Harley

    Trying to expand my poetry knowledge and they don't have this one in the goodreads catalogue that I can find. Didn't really do it for me. Eat Pray Love if that book was secretly about punching George III in the face

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kerdel Ellick

    Perfection! I can read it again and again, and still feel the same way.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Vishal

    He who sees the Infinite in all things sees God. He who sees the Ratio sees himself only. Therefore God becomes as we are, that we may be as he is William Blake - aside from being a genius - is perhaps one of the most quoted poets in the world (just read Auguries of Innocence), and he can also claim to have given inspiration to Jim Morrison (via Aldous Huxley) when he was looking for the name of his band: If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. He who sees the Infinite in all things sees God. He who sees the Ratio sees himself only. Therefore God becomes as we are, that we may be as he is William Blake - aside from being a genius - is perhaps one of the most quoted poets in the world (just read Auguries of Innocence), and he can also claim to have given inspiration to Jim Morrison (via Aldous Huxley) when he was looking for the name of his band: If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern Despite some abstruse bits in his more religious pieces, I particularly enjoyed the beautiful simplicity in the collection from Songs of Innocence and Experience – themes such as detachment from the material world in ‘Eternity’: He who binds himself to joy Does the winged life destroy; But he who kissed the joy as it flies Lives in eternity’s sun rise Or the two extremes of love in ‘The Clod and the Pebble’: Love seeketh not itself to please, Nor for itself hath any care, But for another give its ease And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair Or how we should seize the day before the inevitable loss of the proverbial ‘summer’ of our lives: How shall the summer arise in joy, Or the summer fruits appear? Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy, Or bless the mellowing year When the blasts of winter appear? If you were to read him quietly to yourself, after a while it sounds and feels like a prayer-an ode to joy, peace and pastoral beauty. And for a long time after, the words vibrate in your soul, a reminder of the gentle, restorative power of Nature - Nature as the perfect state of Man - that the modern world has forgotten.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Krystal

    I've never been big on poetry - I like action, and poetry requires way to much thinking. I do, however, appreciate the magic of language, so I can appreciate a cleverly written poem here and there. This was a real mixed bag. I loved the crazy stuff; the ones where there was (action) a story, and clear characters. I enjoyed the ones where I understood what was happening. There were some moments that caught me off guard because of a sudden grisly reveal or unexpected statement. I also really liked I've never been big on poetry - I like action, and poetry requires way to much thinking. I do, however, appreciate the magic of language, so I can appreciate a cleverly written poem here and there. This was a real mixed bag. I loved the crazy stuff; the ones where there was (action) a story, and clear characters. I enjoyed the ones where I understood what was happening. There were some moments that caught me off guard because of a sudden grisly reveal or unexpected statement. I also really liked the animal ones, because I'm a big fan of animals in symbolism. And let's face it: poetry is all about symbolism; nothing is straight up in this genre. I didn't even hate the ones I found boring. They just washed over me without really making an impact. I think poetry is the kind of thing you have to read repeatedly, searching for meaning with each read. Blake's writing is, overall, quite clever. And while some of it is not to my taste at all (I skipped the last one entirely after two stanzas) I can appreciate that the man was clearly brilliant. Not what I'd typically expect from a book of poems, so this was surprisingly entertaining. Pretty glad it wasn't any longer, though.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Citrine

    I can't say that I liked the majority of Blake's poems , I found them repetitive and . . . out of touch with the ordinary person's perceptions of life perhaps ? I did enjoy the cheeriness for a change , child like and innocent . But the few poems that I really treasured from this work , I was deeply moved by them . And as others have commented , I see why he was controversial , those were the poems I was expecting and got the most out of . Here was my favorite of William Blake's by far : A Poiso I can't say that I liked the majority of Blake's poems , I found them repetitive and . . . out of touch with the ordinary person's perceptions of life perhaps ? I did enjoy the cheeriness for a change , child like and innocent . But the few poems that I really treasured from this work , I was deeply moved by them . And as others have commented , I see why he was controversial , those were the poems I was expecting and got the most out of . Here was my favorite of William Blake's by far : A Poison Tree 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. And I watered it in fears Night and morning with my tears, And I sunned it with smiles And with soft deceitful wiles. And it grew both day and night, Till it bore an apple bright, And my foe beheld it shine, And he knew that it was mine - And into my garden stole When the night had veiled the pole; In the morning, glad, I see My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

  29. 4 out of 5

    E.G. Jönsson

    I actually listened to the edition from Svenska Ljud Classica, read by Sam Stinson. Unfortunately, the reading was a little too much like a "school piece" for me, read without any real connection with the material, just hammering out the syllables. Granted, I don't like overly emotional readings either, so I'm hard to please here. It was still delightful to re-experience The Songs of Innocence & Experience, as well as The Book of Thel. Blake, the hippie, Blake, the Goth, Blake, the coiner of I actually listened to the edition from Svenska Ljud Classica, read by Sam Stinson. Unfortunately, the reading was a little too much like a "school piece" for me, read without any real connection with the material, just hammering out the syllables. Granted, I don't like overly emotional readings either, so I'm hard to please here. It was still delightful to re-experience The Songs of Innocence & Experience, as well as The Book of Thel. Blake, the hippie, Blake, the Goth, Blake, the coiner of phrases still buzzing through the English language today. How many pilfered titles originate from these short texts? How many seeds and ideas? Blake is always worth returning to, even for just 54 minutes of your day.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Seemita

    I usually love poetic expression, the kind that sometimes remains largely elusive in descriptive writing. The lyrical blanket around words excites me no bounds. Poems, the first I have ever read of Blake, did shine through some pages. That uncanny ability of all revered poets, to highlight the crux of an event in the most simple, yet lovely jugglery of words, is seen in Blake's penning too. However, those moments did not appear as frequently as I would have liked to. The subjects, Summer, Spring, I usually love poetic expression, the kind that sometimes remains largely elusive in descriptive writing. The lyrical blanket around words excites me no bounds. Poems, the first I have ever read of Blake, did shine through some pages. That uncanny ability of all revered poets, to highlight the crux of an event in the most simple, yet lovely jugglery of words, is seen in Blake's penning too. However, those moments did not appear as frequently as I would have liked to. The subjects, Summer, Spring, Song, Melancholy are all very tentatively broached, sometimes striking a chord, sometimes not. For my first brush with Blake though, this shall do. I will read him again, when the night is silent and my heart, abuzz.

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