“As Poetry admits not a Letter that is Insignificant, so Painting admits not a Grain of Sand or a Blade of Grass Insignificant- much less an Insignificant Blur or Mark.”
William Blake, “A Vision of the Last Judgment”
William Blake is a unique figure in the canons of both literature and art. He is one of a few rare individuals who are equally skilled in both fields, and consequently his illuminated poetry, particularly the “Songs of Innocence and of Experience,” presents the reader with some unique problems of interpretation. In my paper I will show that Blake intended the two aspects of his work to complement and inform each other, and therefore cannot be viewed separately. While his technique may at first seem unprecedented, Blake’s marriage of design and poem was actually the result of a long tradition of regarding painting and poetry as the ‘sister arts.’ I will describe the great pains he took to create each separate plate in such a way that the words and images were joined from the very first steps. Finally, I will explicate several poems from the “Songs of Innocence and of Experience,” including “The Blossom” and “The Sick Rose,” to demonstrate how the meaning of the poems is enhanced by the surrounding imagery. In order to truly understand what Blake accomplished, we cannot limit ourselves to looking at his work through the eyes of only one discipline.
Rebekah Schnidt, ’99 Elk Grove Village, IL
Majors: English, Philosophy
Sponsor: Christina McOmber