William Blake – Looking at his philosophy

Looking at the philosophy of William Blake (1757 – 1827) Engraver/Artist/Poet

Main works include – Poetical Sketches 1783, Songs of Innocence and Experience 1794, Prophetic Poems Milton and Jerusalem 1804-20.

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

From ‘Auguries of Innocence’

The following text is taken from the discussion of his work in Nortons Anthology –

Blake’s mythical starting point is not a transcendent God but the ‘Universal Man’ who is himself God and incorporates the cosmos – defined in his work as ‘The Human Form Divine’ – and this is given the name ‘Albion’. In his myth the fall of man is not a break from God but the falling apart of people into division – the breaking up of ‘Universal Man’.

One of four major divisions or powers (called Zoas) is the imaginative power (called Urthona) and is known as Los in the fallen world. In addition to Urthona there are 3 lower states –
Beulah (easy, relaxed innocence, without clash of ‘contraries’)
 Generation (human experience, suffering, conflicting contraries)
Ulro (Hell, bleak rationality, tyranny, static negation, isolated self-hood)

The World cycles towards redemption through these states … the redeemer is the human imagination … culminating in an apocalypse … the return to the ‘undivided condition’.

He did not know it but shared the view of a number of contemporary German philosophers – the malaise of modern culture is essentially a mode of physical disintegration and the resultant alienation from oneself, one’s world and one’s fellow human beings, and that recovery relies in the process or reintegration.

He does not cancel the fallen world but transforms it by imaginative vision. The reunion of ‘Albion’ recovers a lost vision of nature where all individuals are united as one and can feel at home.

In terms of the puritanical, threatening and joyless religion of his day he emphasised a contrary position based on – desires, energy, abundance, act and freedom – in stark contrast to reason, restraint, passivity and prohibition.

In his work ‘the marriage of Heaven and Hell’ he reversed the traditional values. This work is deliberately outrageous, and at times a comic onslaught against a timidly conventional and self-righteous society.

The Clod and the Pebble – William Blake – Analysis

The Clod and the Pebble

“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.”

So sung a little Clod of Clay
Trodden with the cattle’s feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

“Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”

William Blake

If you want to look at duality in poetry then William Blake will give you plenty of examples. Duality provides contrast and a way of viewing different aspects of the same.
In the above ‘love’ poem the ‘Clod of Clay’ and the ‘Pebble’ are representative of very different aspects of love – the ‘give’ and the ‘take’ that is love – or in the more extreme the ‘Hell’ and the ‘Heaven’.

I think there is a great warning in this poem on the danger of giving oneself too freely and in the process being used by another – ‘trodden with the cattle’s feet’ – the music created by such an image is quite down beat! Not an easy task to ‘build a Heaven in Hell’s despair

In contrast I love the pebble knowing of itself … and with warbled music (like a bird) … responding through the stream of life … and asking others to join in its delight – to move out of their comfort zone – ‘builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite’ … there is warning here too that in the joining of another ‘Heaven’ itself might become corrupted in the process. However the pebble is a pretty strong symbol – a rock able to survive the ravages of time.

Love has never been an easy process … love does both destroy and create.

Rhyming scheme – abab cdec afaf
Rhythm – ^ ^^ ^ ^^ ^ ^ iambic tetrameter
Nice balance – 6 lines of Clay v 6 lines of Pebble