One of the great Enlgish Romantic poets, William Blake was also an artist, mystic, and visionary. His work ranges from the deceptively simple and lyrical Songs of Innocence and their counterpoint Experience--which juxtapose poems such as "The Lamb" and "The Tyger," and "The Blossom" and "The Sick Rose"--to highly elaborate, apocalyptic works, such as The Four Zoas, Milton and Jerusalem. Throughout his life Blake drew on a rich heritage of philosophy, religion and myth, to create a poetic worlds illuminated by his spiritual and revolutionary beliefs that have fascinated, intrigued and enchanted readers for generations.
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William Blake (1757 - 1827) was the son of a London hosier. Having attended Henry Parr's drawing school, he was apprenticed as an engraver to the Society of Antiquaries in 1772 and later was admitted to teh Royal Academy. He married in 1782 and published his first work, Poetical Sketches, in 1783. The first of his 'illuminated books' was Songs of Innocence in 1789. Blake's work over the next twenty years chart the refining of his ideas and beliefs, from a recognition of repression in Songs of Experience to his epic works Milton and Jerusalem whihc present a renewed vision of reconciliation between humanity. Alicia Ostriker is Professor of English at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, USA.