11/28/01
William Blake
    by John Cech

When he was ten years old, William Blake saw an angel in a tree outside his family's house in London. Though no one believed him at the time, he never forgot the vision, and it colored the rest of his life.

His own life was bleak, ordinary, nothing that would have signalled the fact that he would become one of the greatest visionary poets in the English language. Except for that angel. He was apprenticed, learned engraving, but his energies were taking him in unique directions. In 17... he published his Songs of innocence, that begins:

Piping down the valleys wild
Piping songs of
On a cloud I saw a child
And he laughing said to me
Pipe a song about a lamb

Theres that angel again, the child in the cloud, the source of inspiration, the force that changes your life. He goes on in the book to write poems about suffering children, child chimney sweepers lost in England s grimy flues -- and about playing children on village greens, children who remain innocent despite the visible horrors going on around them, and children who have learned the score and voice their outraged contempt for the adults who have consigned them to back-breaking labor and indifference.

Blake thought he was writing his Songs of Innocence that every child may joy to hear but few, if any, children ever saw the book in his own lifetime. He and his wife, Caroline, printed, colored, and bound these beautiful books themselves for a select few subscribers. They would have been the most radical and unusual childrens books ever produced Blake died in .... still in poverty, unrecognized, consigned to a public grave. But those angels he heard still linger in his pages.

Copyright 2001 by John Cech

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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:24:59 EDT


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