- "[I]t is only by cutting out two-thirds of Blake's work that [one] will be able to wedge the rest of it in with that of the minor pre-Romantics."
- "The prophesies form what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the language, and most of the more accessible editions of Blake omit them altogether, or print only those fragments which seem to the editor to have a vaguely purplish cast."
- One prevailing impression is "that Blake is to be regarded as an ultrasubjective primitive whose work involuntarily reflects his immediate mood. The Songs of Innocence are then to be taken at their face value as the ourpourings of a naïve and childlike spontaneity, and the Songs of Experience as the bitter disillusionment resulting from maturity--for when Blake engraved the latter he was no longer a child of thirty-two but a grown man of thirty-seven. It is logical inference from this that the prophecies can reflect only an ecstatic self-absorption on which it is unnecessary for a critic to intrude."
- "It is pathetic to read his letters and see how buoyant is his hope of being understood in his own time, and how wistful is the feeling that he must depend on posterity for appreciation. And it was not only recognition he wanted: he had a very strong sense of his personal responsibility both to God and to society to keep on producing the kind of imaginative art he believed in. He despised obscurity, hated all kinds of mystery, and derided the idea that poets do not fully comprehend what they are writing."
- Frye insists that "all of Blake's poetry, from the shortest lyric to the longest prophesy, must be taken as a unit and, mutatis mutandis, judged by the same standards."
- He also believes (quite logically) that Blake should "be placed in his historical and cultural context as a poet who, though original, was not aboriginal, and was neither a freak nor a sport."
- "Further, Blake's poems are poems, and must be studied as such. Any attempt to explain them in terms of something that is not poetry is bound to fail."
- Also, "No one who has read three lines of our straightforward and outspoken poet can imagine that he wished to be pursued by a band of superstitious dilettantes into the refuge of a specialized cult. Whatever Blakes prophecies may be, they can hardly be code messages. They may need interpretation, but not deciphering".
25 July 2008
Confronting misconceptions about Blake
Northrop Frye does this brilliantly in the first few pages: