"Songs of Innocence and of Experience" is a rare and wonderful book, its seeming simplicity belying its visionary wisdom. Internationally recognised as a masterpiece of English literature, it also occupies a key position in the history of western art. This unique edition of the work allows Blake to communicate with his readers as he intended, reproducing Blake's own illumination and lettering from the finest existing example of the original work. In this way, readers can experience the mystery and beauty of Blake's poems as he first created them, discovering for themselves the intricate web of symbol and meaning that connects word and image. Each poem is accompanied by a literal transcription, and the volume is introduced by the renowned historian and critic, Richard Holmes. This beautiful edition of "The Songs of Innocence and Experience" will be essential for those familiar with Blake's work, but also offers an ideal way into his visionary world for those encountering Blake for the first time.
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William Blake (1757–1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His prophetic poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language". His visual artistry has led one British art journalist to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced". Although he lived in London his entire life except for three years spent in Felpham he produced a diverse and symbolically rich corpus, which embraced the imagination as "the body of God", or "Human existence itself". Considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, Blake is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterized as part of both the Romantic movement and "Pre-Romantic", for its large appearance in the 18th century. Reverent of the Bible but hostile to the Church of England, Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions, as well as by such thinkers as Jakob Böhme and Emanuel Swedenborg. Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake's work makes him difficult to classify. The 19th century scholar William Rossetti characterised Blake as a "glorious luminary," and as "a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors." Historian Peter Marshall has classified Blake as one of the forerunners of modern anarchism, along with Blake's contemporary William Godwin.
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