“Eternity is in love with the productions of time.” – William Blake1
And so I begin this blog, which aims to record the story of my research into William Blake, informally and for a general audience. As a reader you encounter this story mid-way. As a topic for academic research, I have been focusing on William Blake for nearly two years now. This began with my honour’s dissertation, where I wrote about the exchanges between Blake’s mythic and historic narratives, Blake’s vision of the Eternal Man, and his concept of the liberated human body. I choose to continue with Blake in my Master’s research degree, and I am now three months into this.
What is a simple summary of Blake’s perspective, you might ask? Well, I will attempt to answer this: Blake saw humanity as divine through their power of infinite imagination. He considered humanity as being fallen, so developed a system – through his poetry and art – as an effort to return humanity to eternal wholeness. This vision of Blake’s evolved over his lifetime, and reached its greatest expression in his final longer poem, Jerusalem. It took many decades following Blake’s death for his work to be recognised and many more for his work to be better understood.
Much important ground-work on Blake studies has been done by scholars of the twentieth century. In the twenty first century, digital archives with all of Blake’s work makes it much more accessible. And there is now a growing diversification of discussion around Blake, so it appears to be a vibrant time for researching him.
But why study a poet from eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain? It’s one of those things you need to enter into willingly, to find out what is there. Reading the poetry is a good way to start. William Blake was unique, even among the Romantics who shared similarities with him. He devised his own mythological system (the term for this is ‘mythopoetry’), he invented a new printing technique, he was a painter, an engraver, a poet, a philosopher and theologian (of sorts), a mystic (another debatable label), and a very enthusiastic creative genius (most scholars seem to agree on this). Whether agreed with or not, his work continues to give something to reflect upon.
1 – MHH – William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, from Wikisource: en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Marriage_of_Heaven_and_Hell.