Home » The Different Faces of God: An Analysis of Poetry by William Blake

The Different Faces of God: An Analysis of Poetry by William Blake

As a child Blake had no formal schooling. He was apprenticed at the age of fourteen by engraver James Basire. In 1779 he began studies at The Royal Academy of Arts, but it was as a journeyman engraver that he was to make his living. When Blake was engraving his own designs, the general public envied him because they were not as creative as he was. Most of Blakes support came from a small group of artists and friends. Throughout his life booksellers employed Blake to engrave illustrations for a wide variety of publications.

Blake printed much of his poetry himself by using engraving methods he created. His method was to produce the text and illustrations for his books on copper plates. His greatest work as an engraver was his series of twenty-one illustrations to the Book of Job that was commissioned by his friend John Linnell. During the twentieth century Blake was one of the greatest engravers since the Renaissance. During his lifetime, Blakes work received very little attention, and most of his poetry was never published.

When his work was noticed the readers viewed Blake as weird, confused, or mad. One of the purposes of Blakes art was to change the way people see and to open up new worlds to them one continued vision of what had once been ordinary and common, but would become imagination itself. To Kathleen Raine William Blake is the only English poet whose central theme is the confrontation of imagination. Blakes most famous statement about his art is I will create a system or be enslaved by another man s. Blake also provided illustrations for most of his poems.

William Blake first published the Songs of Innocence in 1789. In 1794, these songs and the Songs of Experience were issued together in one volume, with a title page promising a demonstration of the two Contrary States of the Human Soul. According to Blakes nineteenth-century biographer Alexander Gilchrist, the poet and his wife did everything in making the book ( Songs of Innocence)- writng, designing, printing, engraving- everything except manufacturing the paper… Never before surely was a man so literally the author of his own book (Gilchrist).

The state of Innocence is of genuine love and naive trust toward all humankind, accompanied by unquestioned belief in Christian doctrine. The state of Experience is the profound disillusionment with human nature and society. In selected poems by William Blake, he explores two different sides of God as represented in the creation of a tiger, a lamb, and a fly. In The Tiger, William Blake explains that theres more that meets the eye when one examines the Creator and his creation, the tiger. In The Lamb, Blake explains that God can be like a child meek and innocent.

In The Fly, Blake questions the nature of God with his creation of the fly. In The Tyger, William Blake explains that there is more that meets the eye when one examines the Creator and his creation, the tiger. The persona is never defined. All throughout the poem the persona questions the Creator of the tiger to determine if the Creator is demonic or godlike. The poem reflects primarily the personas response to the tiger, rather than the tiger s response to the world. The persona is curious about the location of the Creator of the tiger when he says, In what distant deeps or skies (5).

In this quote the persona is trying to figure out where exactly the Creator is located He wants to know if hes in Hell or in Heaven. The words deeps or skies could have many meanings. According to Inder Nath Kher … The images of deeps and skies indicate usual theological expressions for Hell and Heaven… This leads to the ambiguity of the doubleness of the tiger, and it suggests that either God or the Devil, or both, could have been responsible for Creation. The persona is also wondering what does the Creator looks like when he says, And what shoulder, and what art,/ Could twist the sinews of thy heart? ). These lines speak of the power and strength of the tiger, and of its maker. Shoulders and art both carry responsibilities and burdens and sinews are the tendons that make the heart work, and they are also known as a source of strength and power. So if God is the Creator, he is a strong and powerful force . Also Inder Nath Kher agrees that the Creator must be a powerful force he says, The Creator is shown to be the strongest of creatures and the greatest of artists… It is only He who can twist the sinews of the heart of His Creation.

Hes simply referring to God as the Creator when he use the word He this is a word for Christ or God. Because of the magnificance of Gods creation the reader learns that the creator is omnipotent. Blake may have done this to get the reader to think who did make the tiger, As so many of Blakes lyrics, part of the poems strategy is to resist attempts to imprint meaning upon it The Tyger tempts us to a cognitive apprehension but in the end exhaust our efforts (McGann). Theres more than one answer to this question.

If the reader was a religious person they would know that God created every living creature on this world including the tiger. So the answer to them would be that God created the tiger. The reader will also come to that conclusion from this quote, Did he who made the Lamb make thee? (20). As the reader read this paper one will learn that the Creator in the poem The Lamb is God so the reader will know that the Creator of the tiger could be the same Creator as that of the lamb. Derek Furr writes, On one hand this is a reference to the God of the Bible; but on the other, it could be a reference to Blake himself…

Surely, the poem is as awe-inspiring as it is ambiguous. One that is of no religion would think other wise or maybe one wouldnt care who made the tiger. Blake uses literary devices such as symbols, and imagery to develop his theme. Blakes style of writing in The Tyger contains six four-line stanzas, and uses pairs of rhyming couplets to create a sense of rhythm and continuity throughout the poem. The majority of the lines in this poem contain exactly seven syllables, alternating between stress and unstressed syllables (Poetry for Students).

An example from the poem is, Tyger! Tyger! burning bright(1), the Ty, burn, and right is the stressed syllables and the rest of the word is unstressed this pattern is known as trochaic tetrameter. A trochaic tetrameter is four pairs of stressed and unstressed syllables even though the final trochee lacks the unstressed syllable. A trochee is one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed syllable. Derek Furr writes, Strung together, trochees sound like a chant… Blake drops the unstressed syllable from the last foot of each line.

Were stopped in our tracks, as it were, held in suspense-just as Blakes questions hold us in suspense. Another example of a trochee is, In the forests of the night(2). This style of writing makes the poem exciting to read, it gets the readers attention. This style show how different Blake is from other poets during that time. Blake uses symbols to express the strength of the tiger and its Creator. The main symbol in The Tyger is the tiger itself, The tiger is formed on anvil of inspiration which is the eye of man and God, but it is also a symbol of the very same eye which created it (Adams).

A tiger is a large Asian carnivorous mammal of the cat family or a fierce, daring, or aggressive person or quality. The word fire is used to illustrate the aggressive personality of the tiger, Burnt the fire of thine eyes? (6). The fire can be used to describe the way the tiger sees and is seen by other people. When a person see or come in contact with a tiger the person gets tense right away because one know that one false move the tiger may attack. This example shows how destructive/aggressive the tiger can be just like a wild fire.

The Creator could also be described as a destructive person too because what kind of person would make an aggressive animal. This might be a representation of himself. According to Inder Nath Kher the symbol of fire is dominant in the structure of the poem… To know the source of the fire is to know the origin of the Creator. Blake relates the tigers environment to one during the Industrial Revolution when he says, What the hammer? What the chain? / In what furnace was thy brain? (13-14). This symbolizes what Blakes childhood was like to him.

It was like an industrial factory and that the tigers thinking and his creation began in a furnace. This is so because when Blake wrote this poem it was during the French Revolution, that was a time of suffering for so many people. Blake is interperting his environment through the tigers environment. Blake uses good choice of words to place an image in the readers mind. Blake starts off the poem by making the tiger seem like it is glowing : Tyger! Tyger! burning bright (1). The word bright gives the reader a picture of a tiger walking through the forest with a ray a light hovering over its body.

Bright is a good word to picture a tiger most people wouldnt use the word bright to explain the image of a tiger but thats how Blake sees it. The word bright could also be the amount of energy the tiger has. The tigers energy could be so strong that it has to shine out to the world. According to Mark Schorer, Energy can be curbed but it cannot be destroyed, and when it reaches the limits of its indurance, it burst forth in revolutionary wrath. The reader can picture how the tiger comes to life, And when thy heart began to beat,/What dread hand? d what dread feet? (11-12). The tiger has a life of its own. The reader can picture the tiger taking its first steps into his destructive lifestyle. In The Lamb, William Blake explains that God can be like a child, meek and innocent. The young boy in this poem questions who made the lamb and he compares his characteristics to this Creator. The fact that the persona questions who makes the lamb confirms the existence of a single, powerful, inspiring creator one who dares to produce both the tiger and the lamb.

The persona in this poem is a child who wants to know if God is like a lamb when he says, He is meek, and he is mild/ He became a little child. / I a child, and thou a lamb (17). When one thinks of a child they see someone who is meek, pure, and unclear of the world. So a child is like a lamb someone who stands for purity. In this poem the young boy is explaining that God consider himself to be like a lamb, innocent and meek when he says, He is called by thy name,/ For he calls himself a Lamb (13-14). A person would never know that God has different faces until one really understands who God is and what he is capable of doing.

Blake use literary devices to further explain who the lamb represents in the poem. In The Lamb the lamb is symbolic of Christ, the Son of God, The lamb human form is achieved by the conventional figure of Christ as a lamb (Adams). The lamb also symbolizes the meek and innocent side of God when Blake writes, For He calls himself a Lamb (14). In comparison with the poem The Tyger this poem was written to show that God can be fierce and meek at the same time. Another symbol in the poem could be the word bright, Softest clothing, wooly, bright; .

The word bright in The Tyger was used to bring out the energy that the tiger has and it was used to describe the aggressiveness of the tiger. In The Lamb the brightness of the lamb is one of purity itself, The effect of bright in The Lamb is less dramatic (Adams). Like when one see an angel on TV theres always a light around them cause an angel is a sign of pureness/holiness and thats just what the lamb symbolizes. Bright is also what closes the gap between the lamb and the tiger. From Blakes diction, the setting is somewhere quiet like a countryside.

Blake use words to suggest that its a countryside, By the stream and oer the mead (4). When one picture a stream and a mead (meadow) one can imagine someplace peaceful where the grass is green and its just that person and nature surrounding them. Plus where else would a lamb be besides on a field in the country with his master. Another quote that suggests that the setting is in the country is, Making all the vales rejoice (8). In these lines the word rejoice can be the lambs surroundings coming to a state of peace whenever the lamb is in its presence.

Nature is accepting the presence of the lamb. According to Adams, the lambs surrounding has some human aspects, The lambs surroundings are not natural they are human. The vales are alive, and the lambs voice speaks to them (Adams). Adams could be right but the lambs environment could also be natural too so one can look at it from both perspective. In The Fly, Blake questions the nature of God with his creation of the fly. The persona is comparing himself to man and a fly, Am not I/ A fly like thee (5-6).

The persona want to know if he is useless to people just like a fly is in the world. This can also be a referral to how people see God sometimes as a insignificance role in their life. The persona also wonders if he is a man when he says, Or art not thou/ A man like me? (7-8). The persona is confused about what and who he wants to be either he is a fly or man . The reader/persona learns that to him he is a fly. The persona says, Then am I/ A happy fly, (17-18) the persona is simply saying that he is a fly and that his significance in the world is not important to others.

But the persona is happy like that until he dies, If I live/ Or if I die (19-20). Even though the persona doesnt play a big part in the world hes happy, thats how he wants it to be. The reader might ask why does he want to be considered a fly, maybe thats the only animal that the persona like and hes fascinated with it. When one is fascinated with an object one sometimes long to see what its like in their life. Literary devices also play a part in The Fly. Blake uses personification to give the fly more life when he says, For I dance/ And drink & sing (9-10).

When one think of a fly they cant imagine a fly dancing or singing instead they would see a human figure rather than this fly. But one could say that the dancing could be the flight/flying of the fly moving from place to place around the world. The singing could be the buzzing noise that the fly makes, that could be the fly way of making music. Another use of personification is when the persona says, And strength and breath (14). Blake make the fly seem like its powerful when he writes strength when one thinks of a fly they see a little insect with no type of strength.

So how can a fly have strength, according to Hazard Adams, It is not a direct perception that causes the speaker to find human form in the fly, but a deeper sense of the relatedness of their fates in nature. To Blake the fly has human like qualities unknown to man. From Blakes diction the setting is a nice day during the summer. From the poem, Thy summers play (2), the word summer makes the reader believe that its during the summer time and the children is outside having a nice time playing with friends.

Blake place this poem during the summer time to give the reader a sense of relaxation or to give the poem more life to it. The persona give the reader that summer is a time to have fun and hang out when he says, For I dance/ And drink & sing (9-10). The reader can picture a family or just a group of people having a cookout with music playing and everyone is just having fun dancing and drinking punch. The overall perspective in Blakes poems is to show the reader that God can be powerful and meek as shown in The Tyger and The Lamb .

Blake doesnt just question the strength of God but his weakness as well. Blake is one of the people who saw visions and devoted his life to worshiping God with his poetry and art, to him the world was filled with symbols. Blake gave each of his symbols a deep meaning that even his contemporaries could not understand. In these three poems the reader learns that God created the tiger, the lamb, the fly and everything else thats on this earth. When one gets to understand the poems one will find out that God has different personalities, Blake just writes about two of those personalities.

Blake also gets the reader to learn how one can go from a state of innocence to a state of experience. During ones lifetime, one learns and experience new and different things therefore one becomes more aware of whats going on around them. Derek Furr writes, We are all born innocents, but when we begin to recognize evil or wrong, and are inevitably tempted by it, we pass into a state of experience… (Furr). What really make Blake a unique writer is that most of his poems is express what he felt or experienced during the French Revolution.

From this experience Blake published the poem The Tyger in the Songs of Innocence and of Experience . Blake is also unique in his style of writing his style is one of confusion but thats what makes reading it enjoyable he gets the reader to think about life through his words. The one thing that make Blake different is that most of his poems is centered around his faith in God. Blake was a man of creativity one that was widely misunderstood by society. To make poems about the faces of God is truly wonderful. He demonstrates to the world that as a writer he understands some of the faces of God.

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