Friday, December 31, 2010

An Interpretation on “Ah! Sunflower”

I think that this poem is talking about wanting something or having a goal and it’s using the sunflower to represent the human spirit and its desire or goal. The sunflower’s goal is to be able to rise to the sun. In the second and third line it talks about how the sunflower counts the steps to get there and how it’s striving to get to that place. In that last line of the first stanza it says, “Where the traveler’s journey is done.” It is saying that once the sunflower reaches its destination, in sky with the sun it’s journey will be finished. I think that in the poem the journey is not only referring to the sunflower’s travel to the sun but to the sunflowers entire life. Since the sunflower represents the human spirit I think that the sunflower desiring to be with the sun is kind of like the human desire to end their journey in heaven. The significance of the sun being in the sky is that heaven is also associated with being in the sky. Next, Blake talks about how “youth pined” or how life wastes away longing with that desire to end its journey in heaven. In the second stanza the sunflower dies, “shrouded in snow” winter comes and the snow covers the sunflower. Blake uses the word shrouded to make that connection of the sunflower representing a human the sunflower like a human is being concealed with a shroud. A shroud is a burial cloth that’s used to cover a dead body. Now that the sunflower is dead, now that the human is dead, its spirit can rise from its grave and aspire what it has always wanted. The poem comes to an end with the line, “Where my sunflower wishes to go.” Blake is now also referring to himself saying that heaven is where his spirit wishes to go.               
I later found out that the poem “Ah! Sunflower” is actually part of two other poems called “My Little Rose Tree” and “The Lilly” which are part of Blake’s book Songs of Innocence and Experience. The book was written to show the two different sides of the human soul.
Click the link below to read “Ah! Sunflower” and other poems that make up Songs of Innocence and Experience

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Summary on the Life of William Blake

In 1757 William Blake was born in London. Throughout his early childhood Blake was already painting and at the age of 10 he was attending a drawing school, Henry Par's Academy . Education wise, Blake was especially knowledgeable in  both Greek and Latin literature. He all so knew a lot about Milton and the Bible. Robert, Blake’s younger brother was one of his biggest influences.  Later on he also became a huge inspiration for Blake. After Robert’s death in 1787 Blake was said to have seen his brother’s soul. Robert inspired Blake with a special way of doing engraving which he showed him through a vision. Blake not only saw his brother’s spirit but he also claimed to have spoken with the angels, spirits, and devils that he had written about in his poetry. According to the website linked below it is actually said that Blake saw his first vision when he was four years old, what he saw was Gods hand through a window. When Blake was around the age of fourteen he started to do engraving artwork. He started off first as an apprentice to James Basire who he worked with for eleven years. "Joseph of Arimathea amoung the Rocks of Albion" was Blake’s first engraving. Eight years later Blake went to the Royal Academy while he was still working with James.  At the Royal Academy he met a sculptor, John Flaxman and a painter, Henry Fuseli who helped to influence Blake’s work. Blake got married at the age of 25 to Catherine Boucher. Catherine would often help him with his work, while Blake engraved plates she would help him out by painting them. It is also said the she helped Blake with the creation of the “Songs of Innocence”. A few years after his marriage Blake opened up a print shop with the help of his friend John Flaxman, but business did not go so well for him. All the while Blake continued to write. Most of his most famous writing was done around that same time. By the year 1818 Blake was no longer writing poetry but he did continue with his artwork. Blake’s life came to an end in 1827 in his home in London. 

Check out the link below for more about Blake’s life:  
I wander through each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,
A mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear:

How the Chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every blacken’ng Church appalls,
And the hapless soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down palace-walls.

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new born Infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the marriage-hearse.

William Blake

I believe that William Blake in this poem is trying to show what London was like through the eyes of the common or poor people. This poem was written during the time of the French Revelation, 18th century London. Blake himself was poor and lived most of his life in poverty. He died in poverty as well buried in an unmarked grave in which his wife had to borrow the money just to have him buried.

The fist stanza is talking about walking through the streets looking around at people and places. William Blake uses charter’d (or chartered), which means already mapped out as in the roads, this is also another way to say that the people in London at the time did not have much freedom to do things, their lives were chartered by the government and the church. He sees the sadness and misery of the people who are stuck on the cycle of poverty, which gives them lack of freedom.

This is shown in the second stanza. The mind-forged manacles are the constraints that keep the poor from seeing ways out of the economic depression. The people are in a fog mindset that is due to the restraints, controlling laws and oppressive dictates of the ruling monarchy.

In the third stanza, Blake is talking about how the church becomes tarnished and corrupt by the rich people and the city. Those soldiers are being drafted by the Church and sent off to fight a war. Then when they are unlucky enough to die, they are buried in the churches cemetery. The blood on the palace walls would be for all the blood that the soldier shed for King and Church.
The fourth stanza describes the midnight hour, night has fallen and this is when the ladies of the evening come out. Women during this time had to sell favors in order to put food on the tables to feed their families. Poverty was an all time high. The Harlot’s Curse could be sexual transmitted dieses that are passed from a prostitute to a man. He then could pass it to his wife and finally to an unborn child. This can cause death of the child and ultimately the marriage. This would help us understand the last line, which is an oxymoron about marriage, marriage being the beginning of a relationship and a hearse that represents the end of life. 

I Heard an Angel

I heard an Angel singing
When the day was springing
‘Mercy, Pity, Peace
Is the world’s release.’

Thus he sung all day
Over the new mown hay,
Till the sun went down
And haycocks looked brown.

I heard a Devil curse
Over the health and the furze,
‘Mercy could be no more,
If there was nobody poor,

And pity no more could be,
If all we happy as we.
At his curse the sun went down,
And the heavens gave a frown.

Down poured the heavy rain
Over the new reaped grain…
Is Mercy, Pity, Peace.

William Blake

In William Blake’s “I Heard an Angel” he is trying to show the angel as God trying to tell us how to make the world a better place by using mercy, pity, and peace. Blake grew up in the time of the French Revolution where England was “oppressed” and full of poverty. Blake was very much influenced by the bible and was said that he had visions. In this poem, the angel was singing as he watched over the day showing that God was around and making sure that man knew that the way to Mercy and Peace was through him. Blake used an oxymoron with a devil saying that if everyone was happy and no one was poor then you would not need mercy, pity, peace. This is a contradiction because even the rich are in need of Mercy, Pity, and Peace. In the Bible the devil temps man into eating the fruit of knowledge, which is the beginning of people being of misery, wrath, and war, there is no social division to the condemnation of the wrath of God for Adam & Eve’s mistake. William Blake put these figures in the poem because of how they are viewed religiously showing good and evil. The haycock turning brown represents man listening and following the angel’s advice at the end of the day. This is also showing that during the day (or in the light) things are going good but when darkness falls doubt appears and then doubts, fears and confusions come (hence the Devil makes his appearance). The Devil makes his curse in the time of darkness, when he finished his curse and the heavens frown. This is showing that God is frowning on humanity for taking the devils advice in the Garden of Eden. Then when rain is pouring down on the newly reaped grain, it is showing God is forgiving and willing to give a second chance for mercy pity and peace. Thus, God has overcome the Devil and that man has a new chance for a new beginning. Blake used the rain as the cleansing agent from God, which is Mercy or Forgiveness.  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Tyger

      TIGER, tiger, 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 and what art
      Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
      And, when thy heart began to beat,
      What dread hand and 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?
      Tiger, tiger, burning bright
      In the forests of the night,
      What immortal hand or eye
      Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? 

      The Tiger represents evil, and why it is on earth. The tiger represents evil on earth and how everyone is afraid to stop it. Blake asks "What the hand dare seize the fire?" is a reference to an ancient Greek myth of Icarus. No man can be god; no man dare try to be god because it will always end in failure, just like Icarus could not fly high enough before high wings burned up. This shows immortality that evil has upon people. Too much of a good thing is no good.  The tiger is a powerful force known among people as unstoppable and immovable, such as evil is on the world. "Did He smile His work to see? Did he who made the lamb make thee?" suggests God made the tiger because Jesus is known as "the lamb of god." In our minds Jesus is an good, loving idea we have that we all look up to but how can something so good be from the same father that created evil? Blake is suggesting that Good and evil should coexist in this world. "...burning bright in the forests of the night"  suggests that with all the effort of covering evil's tracks its always going to show its face in some way. Evil shows its face in dark places, such as the tiger is in the forest. “Burnt the fire of thine eyes? References fire from the depths of hell and how it got to the tiger. This shows how the tiger (or evil) see’s things the same way hell would see the world. The tiger thinks, sees, and hears like hell. God is inviting the tiger to step into the only life that can satisfy its soul. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Divine Image

To Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
Is God, our Father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
Is man, His child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity and Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

The Divine Image is a poem about the traits of God, which reflect the traits that can be found in humans. These traits representing parts of people like the heart for mercy, which Blake is trying to suggest that a person may be angry but is willing to forgive or to show mercy to those that have done bad things to them. Pity as the human face is when people try to understand how people are suffering and show the suffering concern. This goes on with the thought that if you know how to show concern of a problem then you may have the knowledge as to how to help fix whatever the problem is or be a support to that person. Love is human form divine, which is saying that by loving each other we are setting the example shown to us by God. We were given the model of Jesus in which Love is the all powerful, merciful, forgiving, healing force that we are to emulate with our own lives. In following that model, we become more “Christ-like or God-like” and take on the traits we are shown by God. This can be followed by any person, any religion because all religions preach love as a key element. Peace is the outer shell of human what protects us from some of the world around us. We can live in a world filled with war, hate, crimes that can depress us, kill us, or make life unlivable but with the shroud of peace around us, life is better, bearable and can fill us with awe. When William Blake is stating that when a person is in distressed they need to pray to God for one of the qualities of pity, mercy, peace, and love, for these traits can help us obtain a better way to live. This poem shows that William Blake does not follow the rest of the world in thinking due to the fact he is saying that the emotions of people represent God. William Blake shows that God can be found in everyone who demonstrate the traits of Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love for these are things that are of God and can better the human society.