Introduced by Richard Holmes
This exquisite little book is filled with Blake's poems addressed to children, but exploring adult themes such as death and social justice.
Artist, mystic, poet and craftsman, William Blake had a unique view of the world around him. At the age of eight he saw ‘a tree filled with angels’, and his perception of beauty in a paradisiacal arcadia shines from every luminous detail of his paintings and every line of his poems. Songs of Innocence and of Experience – arguably his defining work – is a collection of great visual and literary power. It originally appeared in several phases, beginning in 1795. Blake produced and illuminated the copies himself, selling them privately to collectors and friends.
‘William Blake’s insanity was worth more than the sanity of any number of artistic mediocrities’
The poems are a strange and wonderful exploration of, in Blake’s words, ‘the two contrary states of the human soul’. They follow simple rhythms and rhyming patterns, echoing the forms of 18th-century children’s ballads, but their meanings are complex and often ambiguous. As the award-winning author Richard Holmes writes in his introduction to this edition, it is a ‘typical Blakean device’ to present ‘profoundly ... subversive ideas’ in a naive form. Blake railed against the political, social and religious institutions of his time, and in his art he expounded ‘a libertarian view of the world in which “Everything that lives is Holy”’. Here he addresses troubling subjects such as poverty, child labour and the repressive influence of the Church, often through subtle satire.
This exquisite edition is a facsimile of the finest extant copy, which was printed and hand-coloured by Blake and is now kept in King’s College, Cambridge.
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Review by thegr8jordini on 1st May 2015
"While I do not have issues with small books in general-in fact I think they can be quite charming- I think in this instance the small size of the edition was inappropriate. The illustrations are a fac..." [read more]