Essay, Research Paper: William Blake And Romanticism

Literature: Romanticism

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William Blake lived from 1757-1827. He based most of his works in the style of
Romanticism. Much like William Wordsworth, Blake wrote from the heart, letting
natural expression take over. Many of the writers of the Romantic period felt
they had entered an imaginative climate, which some of them called “the Spirit
Age.” During this “Spirit Age,” many authors felt that freedom and
spontaneity were the key elements in poetry. Before this creative revolution, a
poem was considered a classical work of art, assimilated to please an audience.
In Romanticism, the “rules” hanging over poetry were dropped and a piece of
work could become, as Blake described, “an embodiment of the poet’s imagine
vision.” Blake used these free-formed ideas and concepts in his later works.
These essays, All Religions Are One, There is No Natural Religion (a), and There
is No Natural Religion (b), all show Blake’s views against Christian Orthodox,
religion based on ancient scripture and against “Natural Religion,” the
belief that God is as natural organism, much like man. Blake was opposed to the
idea that God is only what the church believes him to be but he was also opposed
to the notion that God was here before we were. Blake believed that man’s
“Poetic Genius,” or imagination helped create the God of today. Many of the
writers of the Romantic period were highly influenced by the war between England
and France and the French Revolution. During the war, Blake was faced with
charges of “speaking against his King and country.” People of this era felt
his works tested the boundaries of good art. Many of the other writers of this
time also challenged previously accepted ideas. Mary Wollstonecroft wrote “A
Vindication of the Rights of Women.” Her work stood up against the female
stereotypes and preconceived notions about women. In the midst of all these
changes, Blake too was inspired to write against these ancient ideas. All
Religions Are One, There is No Natural Religion (a), and There is No Natural
Religion (b) were composed in hopes of bringing change to the public’s
spiritual life. Blake felt that, unlike most people, his spiritual life was
varied, free and dramatic. Growing up he had no formal education. At the age of
ten he joined a drawing school and later studied for a short time at a
prestigious art school, the Royal Academy of the Arts. From this point in his
life, art had the strongest influence. Later on, his work diminished and he went
to a friend who was an artist, William Haley, for help. Haley attempted to
change Blake’s free art into conventional and breadwinning art. Blake soon
rebelled, calling Haley the enemy of his spiritual life. After all of this, he
began to write poetry, hoping to revive his free expression and flow. He wrote
three works around 1788, to illustrate his views on religion, All Religions Are
One, There is No Natural Religion (a), and There is No Natural Religion (b). He
wrote All Religions Are One directed against Deism or “Natural Religion” and
against Christian Orthodoxy. Blake felt that God is not a natural or organic
being, he is a creation of man’s imagination or “Poetic Genius.” He states
that “The Jewish and Christian Testaments are an original derivation from the
Poetic Genius,” supporting his theory that man has imagined God. In There is
No Natural Religion (a), he speaks against the argument that man naturally
perceives God. He states that the desires and perceptions of man are not natural
or organic, but are things taught to us. In the end, Blake reminds us that is
all things in this world were accepted as “natural,” then “the Philosophic
and Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, and stand still
unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again.” We as humans,
are too dependent upon acceptance and not enough on independence. In There is No
Natural Religion (b), Blake tries to persuade his audience that our knowledge is
not limited to the physical sense, it is free and unbounded, much like Blake’s
ideal spiritual life.
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