Keywords: william blake, wordsworth, poetry, writing, english
William Blake and William Wordsworth are two poets that have a few very different views on life and the world. And quite a few close similarities, particularly their writing style, as in they way express their thoughts.
William Wordsworth was born on 7 April 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumberland, in the Lake District. His father was John Wordsworth, an attorney. The country and beautiful landscape struck Wordsworth’s imagination and gave him that love of nature that he is now famous for. As a country poet he isn’t used to the dark alleys of London like Blake was and rather than seeing cities as a mark on the landscape, he sees them as an addition. A thing of equal beauty “This City now doth, like a garment, wear, The beauty of the morning; silent, bare.” You can tell he was only visiting London as he compares it to all the natural metaphors and similies he is used to, and it is a surprise to write about cities, since most of his other poems were about nature. If he maybe had stayed a few months he would not have thought as much to it as he does in the poem, maybe because it is so different to the kind of landscape he is used to – he sees it in a positive light.
He visited France in 1790 and was influenced by the turmoil of the French Revolution he was also greatly affected by his brother’s death in 1805. The oppressive rule of France and the chaos and bloodshed of the revolution that he witnessed hit hard on Wordsworth’s soft, emotional way of thinking. He had to reinvent a whole new understanding of the world and of the human mind in more solid terms.
William Blake was born November 28th 1757, it is evident in his poems he had an awareness of the harsh realities of his life-“In every voice, in every ban, the mind-forg’d manacles I hear”. Here Blake is talking about the oppression of the city of London and how the mind is chained-, which is metaphorical, but he is saying almost how the people of the city are losing their individuality.
As a young boy he had a vision of seeing angels in the trees. These mystical visions returned throughout his life, leaving a mark on his poetry and outlook on life. His artistic talent was noticed by many and encouraged. At ten years old, he began engraving, he was very creative and he started his first poem 1773. Blake hated the church; he believed that the truth was learned by personal revelation, not by teaching. In the end he started to think that all religions were one and there wasn’t any correct religion to follow.
-“Crying ‘weep, weep’ in notes of woe; ‘Where are thy father and mother, say?’ ‘They are both gone up to the church to pray’.”- Quotes from ‘The Chimney Sweeper’ this is where an innocent child having a hard life as a chimney sweep who wants to see his mother and father but has been turned away by them and the Church. Showing how evil and wrong the church is in Blake’s opinion for turning away a poor boy that needs help.
Wordsworth’s verdict after Blake’s death reflected many opinions of the time: “There was no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott.”
Blake’s style of writing was mostly pointing out a lot of negative aspects about things, relating many objects or places to political problems.
In Blake’s London- Blake has a very pessimistic and sad look on the city. Blake also used metaphors, similes and personification but referring to the political problems happening, as well as problems with the city- this could be not just London but all cities in Britain at the time. For example-“… every blackening church appalls…” this is not just skin deep as the church walls were actually black with pollution and dirt, but on a deeper level where he is talking about the corruption in the church.
Wordsworth compares ‘his’ version of London to beauty that’s different from surface appearances, and he used imagery to describe London’s beauty comparing it to natural valleys, green countryside and trickling rivers and streams. For example-“…Never did the sun more beautifully sleep, in his first splendour valley, rock, or hill…”
There he is being more philosophical and pensive; there is less description and more awe of the actual city. Many of his works at that time expressed the beauty of a pure nature, while “Composed upon Westminster Bridge” praised the way nature and civilization could coexist- how the city was just as beautiful as the countryside but in a different, deeper way. “Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie, Open unto the fields, and to the sky.”
In many of his poems, Wordsworth begins to go more and more into his own mind, not actually looking at surface appearances but looking through that sometimes into an almost trance-like state. “Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, We see into the life of things.” He says that in one of his poems in Tintern Abbey. He starts this by looking at the beauty of the landscape, then his mind drifts into deeper things, like his understanding of life and the world around him; “Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood, Almost suspended, we are laid asleep, In body, and become a living soul”.
Blake however is quite different and is deep in a different way. But here he uses a very negative tone to help convey his point. The whole way through he continues his downbeatoppressive tone and describing everything that’s wrong with London. “And mark in every face I meet, Marks of weakness, marks of woe.”- Commenting on how everyone in the city are the victims of an endless work, to keep the city running constantly, he describes how this is sucking out the souls of people the more they work.
Blake also seems to use a downbeat negative tone to give an actual gloomy effect. He says…”how the youthful harlot’s curse, blasts the new-born infants tear”. That line basically means that teenagers are forced into prostitution for money and how if they are impregnated without a father then that child is doomed to be the son of a prostitute. The child is born into a life of poverty and the cycle just keeps going on and on.
Wordsworth- possibly because of a better upbringing, has a more positive outlook on life and can find it easy to see most things in their own kind of beauty. Unlike Blake who found it hard not to look at the landscape itself but see everything wrong with what it stood for- “And the hapless soldier’s sigh, Runs in blood down palace walls.” From ‘London’ instead of marvelling at the palace like Wordsworth would have done- he looks at it and ‘reads between the lines’- how soldiers are sent to their deaths, and how the city profits from it.
In conclusion I think that Blake and Wordsworth are similar in styles on writing but believe very different things. Blake was thought mad by many but I think he just had strong thoughts coming from his own experiences. Wordsworth on the other hand was simply a very philosophical poet, in many of his poems going into a trance-like state “seeing the inner beauty of things.”