A man who lived and died without much recognition, William Blake was an English poet from the Romantic Period, that went on to find great success in the years after his death, being an innovative force in the eras to come. Now, he is well known for his poems and art that have been cherished by millions and published in children’s books, while some of his pieces hang in museums all around the United Kingdom, including the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Blake lived a life of poverty, but found a lot of happiness through his many friends and his loving, doting wife. But William Blake was also widely considered to be a madmen, most people in London didn’t like his works, he often said he saw and heard visions, and was known to be very paranoid and anxious as he slipped further into insignificance and poverty by the end of his life. Being brought up in the Romantic Age helped influence Blake’s works as he often challenged the idea of God, desire, society, and more, in a time when people were opening up to creativity, feelings and nature, which is very evident in Blake’s poems like, “The Tyger” and “The Sick Rose”. William Blake was born in Soho, London, on November 28, 1757 to James and Catherine Blake. He had six siblings although two died as infants, and one named Robert whom he was very close with died in 1787, most likely of tuberculosis, a very vicious bacterial disease in the lungs. However, Blake would see him again after his death because even as child, he would report of seeing visions. At age four, he claimed to have seen God put his head against the window, and as he grew he saw trees filled with angels, and eventually the spirit of Robert happily leaving as he died, and seeing him once again in his dreams as Robert taught him this new printing technique that Blake went on to use in many of his works (Biography.com Editors). When William Blake was ten, he decided he wanted to be a painter, so his parents sent him off to drawing school until he eventually started writing poems, and later got a job as an apprentice to an engraver, given how expensive school was. It was at this time that he found his love for the Gothic style after one of his apprentice assignments led him to drawing tombs at Westminister Abbey. He eventually met the woman who would become his wife, Catherine Sophia Boucher, an illiterate woman who Blake taught to read, write, and color. The couple married in 1782, and Catherine remained a devoted wife until his death, supporting his art and poems, even helping him make and print his various pieces. Blake made his place as an engraver, but was also commissioned by several people to do watercolor scenes from Dante, Milton, and Shakespeare, as well as many others (Biography.com Editors). 1789 was the year that Blake published the first of his most popular series, it was titled the Songs of Innocence, a collection of poems that were deemed primarily for children given their seemingly simple lyrics, despite their more sophisticated message underneath. Next came his other popular collection of poems, entitle the Songs of Experience in 1794, that takes the idea of Songs of Innocence and flips it, providing a mature sound, with much more adult themes. Both collections were created in a lengthy process in which the poems were etched into copper plates, and using small amounts of ink, were pressed into the paper, and done up with hand-drawn and watercolor-painted illustrations. After moving to Felpham for several years in 1800, where Blake gained new ways of higher thinking, he returned to London and in the later part of his life he made some attempts to help his art reach the general public. He did several exhibitions of his works, mostly his watercolors, and overall his art was very negatively received by society. Other than a small number of people who considered Blake a genius, more saw the man as a terrible painter, and fairly insane. Due to this severe backlash, and harsh rejection, Blake gave up on trying to promote his own art, and chose to work on commissions, the last of which was a large project to illustrate Dante’s Divine Comedy, in which Blake never finished due to his death on August 12 in 1827 (“William Blake”). Blake was incredibly poor when he died, and still considered crazy by his peers, yet he proved them all wrong as he is now a popular and beloved poet, that was too ahead of his time, and this innovation has gone on to inspire many poets and artists throughout the years. One of the very famous poems by William Blake is “The Tyger”: Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies, Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand, dare seize the fire? And what shoulder, & what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain, In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp, Dare its deadly terrors clasp! When the stars threw down their spears And water’d heaven with their tears: Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee? Tyger Tyger burning bright, In the forests of the night: What immortal hand or eye, Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? (Blake,William) “The Tyger” by William Blake, is a lyric poem made up of six stanzas of four lines each. These are also known as quatrains that follow the AABB rhyme scheme pattern. In this poem Blake’s main idea is to question God on why He would create something so volatile while at the same time creating something so beautiful. What kind of God willingly and knowingly brings forth such a dangerous force into the world? It’s not so much the physical tiger-Blake does illustrate the terror of the Tyger, using the words “hammer”, “chain”, “furnace”, and “anvil”, which describes the violence in its creation, he also describes the Tyger’s eyes as fire, another symbol of its viciousness- that is dangerous but it’s creator who we should be wary of. This is evident in Blake’s word choice, as he goes from saying in the last line of the first stanza, “Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” to the very last line of the poem in which he says, “Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?” For Blake it’s no longer a question of who, he knows that God is responsible, but it’s more a question of why and how. How dare He? What are His intentions? Blake is also aware of the fact that the tiger is an inevitable effect of the cause of good. In Songs of Innocence, there is a poem called “The Lamb”, which is almost the symmetrical opposite of “The Tyger”, in which it is described as, “tender” and “meek”, Blake compares the Lamb to a child. But as we move into the Songs of Experience, the child is grown, there are terrors in life, and there is evil, and danger, just as much as there is good and joy. In “The Tyger” the speaker asks, “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” this significantly weaves the animals together, as he again questions the Creator, but also knows that, as the LitFinder Contemporary Collection states, “…good and evil, innocence and experience, are equal components of the same divine creation.” (“Explanation of ‘The Tyger’). Although Blake’s question isn’t answered, it’s implied, that yes, God created something kind and peaceful like the Lamb, but also created a beautiful, terrifying thing like the Tyger, symbolizing God’s own nature as something that can’t exist without the other, light, as well as darkness. Another poem from Songs of Experience is “The Sick Rose”: O Rose, thou art sick: The invisible worm That flies in the night In the howling storm, Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy, And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy. (Blake,William) “The Sick Rose” by William Blake is a short poem of two stanzas consisting of four lines each, again another example of quatrains. It has a rhyme scheme of ABCB, in which the second and last lines of the stanza rhyme. In this poem, Blake’s main idea is to describe how deadly liberated desire can be, as well as to show how love can be a sickness. He uses a rose, something always associated with love, romance, and has turned it on its head, making the rose a morbid, dying thing. The rose has been corrupted by desire and secrecy, by a consuming and volatile type of love that can only lead to the rose’s destruction. It’s not natural love in the way we’ve always seen it, for Blake it’s a dark secret, it destroys life, its’ a worm creeping in. This type of love is dark, and gross, but there’s also quite a lot of violence to it. As the speaker states, “In the howling storm” this love isn’t peaceful or even very happy at all, it only brings destruction as it “flies in the night” because it couldn’t sustain itself in the light of good, it feeds off of misery. As LitFinder explains, “…physical desire divorced from the imagination breeds sickness, becoming not a consummation of love, but a symbolic devouring of the beloved.” (Explanation of ‘The Sick Rose’). The rose goes from being happy, “of crimson joy” to being destroyed, ruined, possibly hurt with sexual violence, and ultimately dying from this worm’s desire. Overall, William Blake became an incredibly talented and popular poet that has inspired many with his beautiful art despite his uneventful life. Constantly poor, working as an engraver, he made paintings and poetry to lukewarm response, that are now praised for their technique and analyzed for their meaning. “The Tyger”, one of Blake’s most popular poems, questions the idea of God, how a Creator could make something as scary yet twistedly beautiful as a tiger, yet also make something sweet and innocent like a lamb, all in a time period in which challenges to the status quo, and creativity were finally being celebrated. With this creative freedom, Blake touched on a variety of themes throughout his poems, and he wasn’t afraid to get dark and morbid. A great example being “The Sick Rose” in which he describes desire that physically comes to fruition as the tragic downfall of a person, that it destroys them, and makes them sick in a way that real and natural love never would. William Blake was passionate and meticulous about his work even if society hated and despised it and beyond the inspiration of his poems and paintings, is the inspiration of his work ethic and determination to do what he loved.