William Blake stands as a visionary poet whose work relies entirely on Romanticism as he belonged to the Romantic era. He uses the power of imagination to explore the depths of human emotion. Thus, Blake’s poetry goes beyond conventional boundaries. His poetry delves into the mystical and spiritual realms, therefore, it creates a connection to the sublime. William Blake uses vivid and symbolic language to portray the natural world around us.
William Blake is famous for writing “Songs of Innocence and Experience” and “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”. In his collections of poems, he invites readers to venture into a realm of both innocence and rebellion. He demonstrates themes of love, freedom and the human experience. As a Romantic poet, William Blake also mentions the complexity of human emotion and the boundless potential for self-discovery.
Table of Contents
Let us first know about romantic poetry and its characteristics.
What is Romantic Poetry?
Romantic poetry is characterized by a rich and diverse set of features that distinguish it from other literary movements. Here are some key characteristics of Romantic poetry:
- Emotion and Subjectivity
- Nature and Imagination
- Individualism and Freedom
- Spirituality and Transcendence
- Nostalgia and Melancholy
- Focus on the Common Man
Now let’s see whether Blake fits into the category of Romantic Poets or not. If the poetry of William Blake fulfils all or some of the above-said characteristics, we may call him a romantic poet.
Emotion and Subjectivity
The poet William Blake uses the power of his words to show strong feelings and personal thoughts. Like a close friend, William Blake tells about his emotions and ideas. The poet usually writes about feelings of happiness and sadness. In some poems, he seems very much excited. Blake loves talking about these kinds of feelings in his poems. He writes about how he felt deep inside. He tries his best that his words can make his readers feel those things too.
Most of the poems of William Blake are about his own personal thoughts, ideas and things about which he thinks. It seems that he talks to himself when we read his verses. Blake shared his thoughts through his poetry.
Let us look at some lines from his poems to understand this better:
I wander thro’ each charter’d street, Near where the charter’d Thames does flowWilliam Blake
In these verses, Blake says that he walks through the city streets near the River Thames. But he uses the word “charter’d” to show that everything is controlled and planned. It’s like he’s telling us that there’s no freedom in the city. Hence, he simply expresses what he sees and feels.
Similarly in another poem, he writes:
Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night.William Blake
The poet talks about a tiger in this poem. He repeats the word “Tyger” to make it different. He describes it as “burning bright.” It is like he is amazed by the power and beauty of the tiger.
In this way, the poet talks about his own experiences. Thus, his poems are subjective in nature. There are many other examples that prove emotion and subjectivity as one of the key characteristics of romantic poet William Blake’s poetry.
Nature and Imagination
The way William Blake weaves nature and imagination into beautiful poems is worth praising. Romantic poets imaginatively remain near natural objects at the time they write poems. The world of nature around us – the trees, the sky, the birds etc. Imagination is when we picture things in our minds. It does not matter whether we close our eyes or not. It is like seeing dreams of those stories or scenes that aren’t really there.
The romantic poet William Blake makes it easier for us to create pictures in our minds with the help of words. He lived a long time ago but his ideas are still lively and interesting. There are many objects of nature in his poems that are worth mentioning. For example, colourful flowers, fluffy clouds and sparkling rivers etc.
William Blake sketches different objects of nature. From his poems, we see many different natural objects including:
In a poem called “The Chimney Sweeper,” Blake imagines a young boy who is sad because he has to clean chimneys. The boy also dreams of a brighter future and hopes for a better life. This shows how imagination can bring hope even in tough times.
In this way, the poet helps us imagine different words by painting natural objects. Hence, the portrayal of natural objects with a blend of imagination makes William Blake, a romantic poet.
Individualism and Freedom
Romantic poets create worlds where everyone is free to be himself. In those worlds, nobody tells them how to think or act. This kind of thinking is what we call “individualism” and “freedom.” Poets like William Blake write about these big ideas.
Most of the poems of William Blake focus on Individualism. The poet believes that every person is unique and should be able to express himself how he wants. In addition, the poetry of William Blake also gives the freedom to make choices and to do desired things. It is like having the freedom to choose a path in life as per wishes and whims.
Individualism and freedom are key elements of Blake’s poetry. The readers may imagine him as a storyteller who uses words to share his thoughts and feelings with people.
Let us quote some examples from his poems.
In his poem “The Chimney Sweeper,” the poet writes about a boy who is forced to work. He cleans chimneys but he still dreams of something better for himself. This shows how Blake cared about every person’s dreams and feelings. Blake showed that every person is special and different. He does not like the idea of everyone being the same. He promotes the idea that people should think for themselves and not just follow what others say.
Similarly, in his poem “The Garden of Love” he writes about how rules can stop people from enjoying life and love. He showed that freedom is important for being happy. He wants people to be free to express their thoughts and feelings.
Spirituality and Transcendence
The poetry of romantic poet William Blake creates a connection to something beyond just the everyday world around us. The poet uses the power of his words to help us understand this special feeling. It forces us to feel that there is something greater than ourselves, which we call “Spiritualism.” Likewise, “transcendence” is when we go beyond the limits of our regular thoughts and experiences. It is like taking a little trip into the unknown with the power of imagination. Blake’s poetry often took us on such journeys.
One of his famous poems is called “The Tyger.” William Blake wonders how such a fierce and powerful creature could have been made by the same creator who made the gentle lamb. It is like he asks about the big and small sides of life. He tries to find a connection between both these worlds.
Similarly, in his poem “The Chimney Sweeper,” a boy talks about a dream. His dream takes him to a better place, where he doesn’t have to suffer anymore.
Hence, the poetry of the poet William Blake talks about spirituality and transcendence which is one of the prominent characteristics of romanticism.
Nostalgia and Melancholy
The poetry of William Blake explores two big feelings: nostalgia and melancholy. Nostalgia is like remembering a time in the past and feeling both happy and a bit sad about it. In his poems, the poet often looks back to his own past and talks about them due to which there is a deep kind of sadness in his poems.
One of the best poems in this regard is “The Echoing Green.” In this poem, the poet sketches a scene of a sunny day in a village where children play outside. He talks about the old people who also used to play on that green field when they were young. This makes us think about how time changes things and that can make us a little sad.
An analysis of the short poem “The Sick Rose” by William Blake reveals that it talks about a fragile flower that gets hurt by a hidden worm. This poem might seem simple, but when we look closer, it feels a bit sad. The flower represents something precious, and the worm is like hidden trouble. It’s a bit like how sometimes we might have a worry deep inside that we don’t show to others. This makes us feel a bit melancholy – like the flower that’s not feeling well.
The romantic poet William Blake’s poetry helps us see these feelings. His poetry includes feelings of nostalgia and melancholy.
Focus on the Common Man
Romantic poetry often focuses on the common man and their experiences. One of the distinguishing features of Romanticism is its emphasis on individualism and a deep connection to human emotions and experiences. Many Romantic poets sought to capture the lives, struggles, and joys of everyday people in their poetry. They believed that the thoughts and feelings of ordinary individuals were just as important and valuable as those of the elite.
Poets like William Blake, William Wordsworth and John Clare, for example, are known for their poems that depict the lives of rural labourers and the natural world they inhabited. They celebrate the beauty and significance of simple moments and interactions in the lives of common people. This emphasis on the common man was a departure from earlier literary traditions that often focused on aristocracy and the upper classes.
Some Examples from his Poems
We have already talked about The Chimney Sweeper. Now let us find some examples from other poems of William Blake.
In his poem “London”, Blake portrays the struggles and sufferings of the common people in London during his time. He describes the streets as “charter’d,” meaning controlled or restricted, and he emphasizes the cries of the less fortunate people, the soldiers, and the harlot. The poem reveals the social and economic hardships faced by ordinary individuals.
In the poem “The Garden of Love,” Blake explores the idea of official religion obstructing natural human emotions and experiences. He portrays a garden that was once a place of joy and freedom, now turned into a graveyard with “thorns” and “tombs.” This transformation reflects the suppression of human expression by societal norms.
Similarly, “The Little Vagabond” and “Holy Thursday” are some other poems that demonstrate the focus of the poem on the common man and their experiences. He sheds light on social issues, innocence and the impact of societal structures on everyday lives.
Romantic poetry, including the poetry of the poet William Blake, does encompass a wide range of themes and subjects but it is indeed the portrayal and celebration of the common man and their experiences. Remember, there are some other characteristics of romantic poetry including love, the use of supernatural elements mystical elements etc. The said characteristics are also there in the poetry of William Blake.