William Blake is perhaps the greatest and most versatile man in the history of England. Poet, writer, painter, philosopher, printmaker – it is difficult to place him in one category. His wisdom and intellect was so ahead of his time that the then society failed to recognize his genius. With time, we are but awed as we realize his artistic treasures.
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
Early Life of Blake
He was born on 28 November 1757 in London. His father had the occupation of a hosier, raising a family of seven children. William was able to attend school only till the age of ten. Who would have guessed that the boy who barely had his education was set to become the greatest Briton of history.
After he left school, his mother Catherine, taught him all that she could at home. Since childhood, William Blake had a flair for copying and engraving Greek antiquities. His parents recognized his flair and zeal with which he copied masters like Michelangelo. He was sent to the Pars’s drawing school and since his childhood, he showed a envious determination at his work that set him apart from others.
At the age of fifteen, he started to work under engraver James Basire as an apprentice. Seven years later, he also continued his artistic studies at the Royal Academy.
With time Blake experimented with engravings, relief etchings and challenged the contemporary style of painting in Britain. Needless to say, he was met with opposition from well known ‘artists’ who were too happy with the only style they had practiced on.
William Blake illustrated books for individuals as well as classics like Dante’s Divine Comedy. In his work, everything was a rare mix of tradition and freshness which no one yet has been able to emulate. He challenged the superficial workings of the Church but not the goodness of religion; he questioned the blind worship of the royalty.
William Blake hardly received his due recognition for his poetry and painting in his lifetime. However in the passage of time, people have been aware what a tremendous artist he truly was. Every day, artists try to delve and recreate the wealth of art he left behind for us.
Long after his death, critic Jonathan Jones studies his work and declared him as the “far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced”.
Scholar William Michael Rossetti called him as a “glorious luminary” and “a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors.”
Quotes of William Blake
# If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.
# Better to shun the bait than struggle in the snare.
# A man can’t soar too high, when he flies with his own wings.
# To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.
# The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.
# What is now proved was once only imagined.
# The imagination is not a state: it is the human existence itself.
# I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man’s. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.
# The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.
# In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.
# The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.
# Love seeketh not itself to please, nor for itself hath any care, but for another gives its ease, and builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.
# For all eternity, I forgive you and you forgive me.
# If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is – infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.
# Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.
# Excessive sorrow laughs. Excessive joy weeps.
# A truth that’s told with bad intent Beats all the lies you can invent.
# I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow.
# I am in you and you in me, mutual in divine love.
# A good local pub has much in common with a church, except that a pub is warmer, and there’s more conversation.
# And we are put on this earth a little space that we might learn to bear the beams of love.
# He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.
# Man was made for joy and woe
Then when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine
A clothing for the soul to bind.
# For every thing that lives is Holy.
# Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.
# When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do.
# If the Sun and Moon should ever doubt, they’d immediately go out.
# Everything to be imagined is an image of truth.
# The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.
# How can a bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?
# Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.
# Both read the Bible day and night, But thou read’st black where I read white.
# I myself do nothing. The Holy Spirit accomplishes all through me.
# Thus men forgot that all deities reside in the human breast.
# When a sinister person means to be your enemy, they always start by trying to become your friend.
# Make your own rules or be a slave to another man’s.
# Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.
# What is grand is necessarily obscure to weak men. That which can be made explicit to the idiot is not worth my care.
# Enlightenment means taking full responsibility for your life.
Also read: 5 red flags of a false guru or prophet