Friday, January 22, 2010

William Blake's The Tyger


Starting a new semester and am taking a British Writers class. We're beginning our discussion with the Romantics and were assigned some poems by William Blake (1757-1827).

Blake was a poet and illustrator and is probably best known for his singular publications which combined his (increasingly esoteric) poetry and art. Songs of Innocence and of Experience is perhaps his most well-known and accessible collection of works.

In Songs (and other volumes), Blake experimented with a technique called "relief etching" (along with illuminated printing) where he created individual copper plates of art and poetry etched into the surface. He would then print a limited number of copies, hand illustrating each page using mostly water colors. These pages would eventually be hand-bound into small chapbooks which he would sell or distribute to a close circle of friends. Thus, without mass distribution, Blake was relatively unknown during his life time.

In fact, I had never really heard of him (I know, for shame!)...and yet when I started reading his poems, I found familiar quotes. For example, from the final verse of "The Tyger" comes this memorable line: "What immortal hand or eye / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?" (Yes, it's also an instrumental piece by Inked in Blood on their "Lay Waste the Poets" album, lol.)

So, I have a new Romantic to delve into. And he's worth the delve. Look at the sample illustrations of "The Tyger" - and each one is different which shades the message slightly as the poem and art work together in various ways. Notice that the tiger in one appears to be smiling. Huh! For an indepth look at his artwork, you must visit the William Blake Archive.

For more information, visit:
+ Poets.org
+ WebMuseum
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