Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Read Blake or About Blake

People interested in Blake are more apt to read
about Blake than to read Blake. Reading The Four
Zoas, Milton, or Jerusalem are awesome undertakings.
Until you've begun to understand the man's language,
it's a losing proposition. There's a core set of
metaphors that he used repeatedly, although like all
metaphors his are subject to various entonations, and
often used for an object or its opposite.

To enable intelligent reading of the major prophecies
there is a great abundance of interpretations of his
works. Where to begin??? Those of us who have made a
few steps in that direction can perhaps give a bit of
guidance to the beginning student.

Northrup Frye's Fearful Symmetry was the work that
made me a life long lover of Blake's poetry. It's not
easy; I read it five times before I was able to get
more than a few glimmers of light. But it's very
rewarding; you're likely smarter than me, in which
case one or two readings may get you well into the
big poems.

Frye was a celebrated literature critique; after
finishing Fearful Symmetry he said that if he had it
to do over, he would have written more of an
introduction than what he actually did.

The one who gave the simplest introduction for me
was Milton Percival's Circle of Destiny; it's more
systematic and more elementary.

But Kathleen Raine's Blake and Tradition was what made
me a real enthusiast. That's the most easily readable
one, and it's filled with some of Blake's loveliest
pictures. Unfortunately Blake and Tradition is out of
print now, but a fairly good substitute may be found
in her little book, Blake and Antiquity.

Put any books recommended here in Amazon's website,
and you'll find they may have an advanced price, but
page down and you most often see other copies (used
or new) on sale much more cheaply (that's the virtue
of Amazon's farm system).

There is also an amazing amount of valuable information
on line; and this website is here to help you with
any questions you may have.

Good luck with your study of William Blake.

No comments: