poetry: Blake: Poetical Sketches (1783)

Bloom shows how elements of Poetical Sketches I’ve hitherto taken seriously are actually meant to be ironic, parodic of Augustan verse. Ohh. I didn’t recognize there was a history of “mad songs” nor was I quite sure what they were. It’s hard to separate oneself from some era and read its verse properly. What struck me this time around was reading the poems that have become somewhat ingrained in me and thinking, “this is Blake? this is Blake?” How sweet I roam’d from field to field? I would have guessed Byron wrote that, that it fits in with his Occasional Pieces, written from the forests, not from the London sweatshops. The importance of Poetical Sketches, in my opinion, is that it shows Blake as being a well-read, opinionated poet from the start–being very fluent in classical and biblical mythology as well as more contemporary literature, even having a large store of imagery and metaphors to play with. It’s sometimes difficult to jump into “Thel” or “Heaven and Hell” without somewhat a sense of Blake’s unreliability unless you can be quite sure he’s grounded as a poet, the same as “Songs of Innocence” may come across as immature if one isn’t fully convinced that the poet is quite self-assured, directed precisely as an arrow.

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