As a visual supplement to the music program of the works of William Blake, the GS has provided links to the texts of the two primary works that contemporary singer-songwriters have put to music: (1) The Songs of Innocence & of Experience; (2) The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. The links provide Blake's text and colored plates.
The Songs of Innocence and The Songs of Experience first appeared in two phases in 1789. Five years later (1794), Blake bound these poems with a set of new poems in a volume entitled Songs of Innocence & of Experience Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. The volume's "Contrary States" are sometimes signalled by patently repeated or contrasted titles of the poems. The stark simplicity of poems hide profound realities of Blake's time (e.g., the historical transition from an oral to a written culture in the "Introduction" to the Songs of Innocence and the realities of poverty and exploitation that accompanied the "Dark Satanic Mills" of the Industrial Revolution in "The Chimney Sweeper" of The Songs of Experience). The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is the third of Blake's illuminated books, and was probably begun in 1789 and completed in 1790. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is a polemical tour de force; a metaphysical satire that mixes free verse and prose (“The Argument” and "Song" --“The Song of Liberty”). It is a series of texts written in imitation of biblical prophecy but expressing Blake's own intensely personal Romantic and revolutionary beliefs. It assaults not only the values of Blake’s contemporary institutions of church and state but also the “New Age” religion of his former spiritual guide, Emanuel Swedenborg (i.e., his theological work Heaven and Hell). It compounds ethical and theological “contraries;” in form it ironically mocks the categorical techniques that seek to make the contraries appear as “negations.” The intellectual daring of the early engraved tracts fuses with Blake’s sense of his own spiritual maturity, to produce a masterpiece of satiric vision.
Each illuminated book is listed and the images from it follow.
Thematic Images from Collections of Blake's Colour Prints, Drawings, and Watercolors
Thematic Images for Blake's Commercial Book Illustrations
Blake's Cottage at Felpham
"And Now Begins a New life, because another covering of Earth is shaken off. I am more famed in Heaven for my works than I could well conceive. In my Brain are studies & Chambers fill'd with books & pictures of old, which I wrote & painted in ages of Eternity before my mortal life; & these works are the delight & Study of Archangels. Why, then, should I be anxious about the riches or fame of mortality."
(William Blake, Letter to John Flaxman, September 21, 1800, on moving from London to country village of Felpham.)
"The Bread of sweet Thought & the Wine of Delight Feeds the Village of Felpham by day & by night."
"Meat is cheaper than in London, but the sweet air & the voices of winds, trees & birds, & the odours of the happy ground, makes it a dwelling for immortals."
A List of Blake's Works
All Religions are One (c. 1788) There is No Natural Religion (c. 1788) The Book of Thel (c. 1789) Songs of Innocence (1789) Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1789, 1794) The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (c. 1790-93) Visions of the Daughters of Albion (c. 1793) For Children: The Gates of Paradise (1793) For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise (1793, c. 1820) America a Prophecy (c. 1793) The First Book of Urizen (1794) Europe a Prophecy (1794) The Song of Los (1795) The Book of Los (1795) The Book of Ahania (1795) Milton a Poem (c.1804-08) Jerusalem (1804–1820) On Homer's Poetry [and] On Virgil (1822) The Ghost of Abel (1822) Laocoön (c. 1815, c. 1826-27)
Poetical Sketches (1769-1778) An Island in the Moon (c. 1784-5) Tiriel (c. 1789) The French Revolution (1791) A Song of Liberty (1792) Subjects for "The History of England" (1793) A Divine Image (c. 1794) Vala, or the Four Zoas (1795-1804) Joseph of Arimathea (c. 1810) A Vision of The Last Judgment (1810) The Everlasting Gospel (c. 1816) Mirth and Her Companions (c. 1820) Notes on the Illustrations to Dante (1825-27)
Works Illustrated by Blake
Illustrations to the Bible (c. 1780-1824) Mary Wollstonecraft, Original Stories from Real Life (1791) G. A. Bürger, The Waking of Leonora (1796) Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1795-97) Thomas Gray, Poems (c. 1797-98) Illustrations to Milton's Comus (1801) Robert Blair, The Grave (1805) John Milton, Paradise Lost (1808) Characters from Spenser's Faery Queen (1808) Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims (1810) Illustrations to Milton's Paradise Regained (c. 1816-20) Illustrations to Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso (c. 1816-20) John Varley, Visionary Heads (1818–20) R.J. Thornton, The Pastorals of Virgil (1820) The Book of Job (1823–26) John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (1824–27) Dante, The Divine Comedy (1824–27)
[ Incomplete list ]
William Blake self-portrait (1802)
Blake died at the age of 69. He spent the day of his death working on a series of engravings of Dante’s Divine Comedy. That evening, he drew a portrait of his wife, and then told her it was his time. A friend of Blake’s who was there at his deathbed wrote: “He died on Sunday night at 6 o’clock in a most glorious manner. […] Just before he died, His Countenance became fair. His eyes Brighten’d and He burst out into Singing of the things he saw in Heaven.”
click to enlarge
The gifted t-shirt the GS wears on William Blake's birthday.