William Blake [1757-1827]

Blake portrait by Thomas Phillips
English poet, painter, and printmaker

William Blake

was born,
November 28, 1757
at 28 Broad Street (now Broadwick St.) in Soho, London

Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. What he called his prophetic works were said by 20th-century critic Northrop Frye to form “what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language”. His visual artistry led 21st-century critic Jonathan Jones to proclaim him “far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced”. While he lived in London his entire life, except for three years spent in Felpham, he produced a diverse and symbolically rich œuvre, which embraced the imagination as “the body of God” or “human existence itself”.

Although Blake was considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, he is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterized as part of the Romantic movement and as “Pre-Romantic”. A committed Christian who was hostile to the Church of England (indeed, to almost all forms of organized religion), Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions. Though later he rejected many of these political beliefs, he maintained an amiable relationship with the political activist Thomas Paine; he was also influenced by thinkers such as Emanuel Swedenborg. Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake’s work makes him difficult to classify.

A pioneer illustrator and designer too, in my humble opinion!

So here’s a glimpse of his work & words
Newton [Tate]

To see a 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.”

The Inscription over the Gate [Tate]

“It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing [Tate]

“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..”

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The Ghost of a Flea [Tate]

“Drawing includes three and a half quarters of the content of painting… Drawing contains everything, except the hue.”


“If a thing loves, it is infinite.”

The Sun in His Wrath

“ Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? ”

The Spirit of Plato

“What is now proved was once only imagined.”

Night Startled by the Lark

“Those who restrain desire do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.”

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The Youthful Poet’s Dream

“Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”

The Goblin

“The imagination is not a state: it is the human existence itself”

A Sunshine Holiday

“I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man’s. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.”

Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion

Lot and His Daughters

“The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.”

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Ancient of Days

“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Cain Fleeing Abel

“Every Night and every Morn
Some to Misery are born.
Every Morn and every Night
Some are born to Sweet Delight,
Some are born to Endless Night.”

The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy [Blake’s vision of Hecate, Greek goddess of black magic and the underworld]

“Eternity is in love with the productions of time.”

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The Sun at His Eastern Gate

“He who kisses joy as it flies by will live in eternity’s sunrise”

The Wandering Moon

“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”

Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience


“Truth can never be told so as to be understood and not be believed.”

The Minotaur XII

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is – infinite.”

Milton’s Mysterious Dream

“Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence.”

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Milton in His Old Age

“He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.”

The Lovers’ Whirlwind illustrates Hell in Canto V of Dante’s Inferno

“Excessive sorrow laughs. Excessive joy weeps.”

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with Sun

“ My mother groaned, my father wept,
into the dangerous world I leapt.”

‘Skofeld’ wearing “mind forged manacles” in Jerusalem Plate 51

“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.”

The Temptation and Fall of Eve Object 9

“ How can a bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing? ”

Six Extra-Illustrations to a Second Folio Edition of Shakespeare Jacques and the Wounded Stag Object 1

“ If the Sun and Moon should ever doubt, they’d immediately go out.”

God blessing the seventh day

“Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.”

The great red dragon and the woman clothed in sun

“That which can be made Explicit to the idiot is not worth my care.”

The Tyger

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.”

The Sick Rose

“ I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand.”

The Blossom

Illustrations to Milton’s “Paradise Lost”

Illustrations to “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”

Illustrations to “The Song of Los”

This time I picked two songs inspired by and with segments of Blake’s poems.

The Doors

End of the night

[from “Auguries of Innocence”]

Album: Break On Through (To the Other Side) [1967]



Love’s Secret Domain

[from “The Sick Rose”]

Album: Love’s Secret Domain [1991]

For more information on Blake:






Be Safe

31 replies »

  1. He certainly was ahead of his time, in a few ways.
    Although the theme of religion is depicted often, he does stray. More importantly, he strays from accepted standards of technique in his time.
    His illustrations of Paradise Lost seem the most concurrent to his era.

    Your music choices follow suit. I especially love the choice of a “Doors” song. I’ll never recover from Jim Morrison.
    Thank you for this, dear Marina!


  2. Before this post, I didn’t know this artist. At least now I know I enjoy his work … well, except for the Ghost of a Flea. To me, his style is clear with a touch of pizazz that seems to me to be a personal style. Thnks Marina for the intro!

Happy to hear your thoughts

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