Literary Connections: making the right connections with literature
Blake: detail from 'Jerusalem'
'What the hammer?' A detail from Blake's 'Jerusalem'.
Another image appears below

Grave of William and Catherine Blake
Grave of William and Catherine Blake
in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, London:
see below for the messages.

Messages left at Blake's grave
Still inspiring disciples: messages left
at Blake's grave, June 2005.

William Blake (1757-1827)

Blake is a particularly good poet to find on the Web, because so much of a true appreciation of his work involves looking at the artwork as well as the text. Some of these websites have wonderful examples of this, and it is worth following them and comparing your reactions to the text alone and to the text when seen with a picture.

Blake on the Web
You might find these sites useful for AS and A Level. For texts and additional reading, see below - and try out the interactive Blake context page too. See also the page on Romanticism in English literature.
  • The William Blake Archive
    This superb hypermedia archive includes a huge resource of Blake's pictures, engravings and manuscripts.

  • Blake Online at Tate Britain
    Tate Britain has a number of important Blake pictures. Of particular interest to teachers is the William Blake online section, with background information, detailed explorations of both the illustrations and the text of some of the The Songs of Innocence and Experience, which was designed to accompany an exhibition in 2000. The site is easy to navigate and informative, with a section for teachers and students.

  • The Blake Digital Text Project
    This contains the complete works online. The graphical hypertext section on The Songs of Innocence and Experience is particularly useful. It contains many graphics (including images for each stanza), audio (including song settings), annotations (just click on the images for notes on each stanza) and bibliographies. You might want to jump straight to the index of titles.

  • Web Concordance of Songs of Innocence and of Experience
    This valuable tool from Dundee University allows you to explore in detail how Blake uses words, putting them in context. The site also contains a workbook which demonstrates the value of this approach.

  • Guardian and Observer articles in response to Tate Britain's William Blake exhibition in 2000:
    • Twixt heaven and hell: Blake's life was one of squalor and frustration; most people thought him mad. No wonder he dreamed of a green and pleasant land, says Jonathan Glancey - The Guardian 9 November 2000.
    • Into the mystic: Visions of paradise to words of wisdom... an homage to the written work of William Blake - Neil Spencer: 'You might think that as one of England's finest and most-quoted poets Blake has never been away, but it isn't so. He was roundly ignored in his lifetime....' With comments by Iain Sinclair, Andrew Motion and others - The Observer 22 October 2000.
    • Blake's progress: 'Like today's YBA's, William Blake felt compelled to shock and provoke. But that's where the similarity ends..... He lived through the rise of industrialisation, commercialisation and rationalism. He was against all three. He was for ancient knowledge, spiritualism and mysticism.' Matthew Collings: The Observer, 22 October 2000.

  • William Blake - items from the Preston Blake Collection on the MOTCO site, including interesting contemporary comments (1806) on William Blake by Benjamin Heath Malkin.

  • Lost Innocence - Teaching Blake at A Level by Mark Brassington
    This useful introduction for teachers is available to download as a PDF in Part 2 of the last issue of The English and Media Magazine.
Songs of Innocence and of Experience

William Blake: The Scourge of Tyrants
Books on Blake
Blake in song
Blake would often sing his own songs, but the music (if it was ever written down) has not survived. However, there have been many settings of his work.
  • The Blake Digital Text Project is a good place to start - you can hear samples of settings by several composers for each of The Songs of Innocence and Experience.
  • The American composer William Bolcom created a huge work based upon the Songs, first performed in 1984 and recently issued as a Naxos recording on three CDs - you can read the review which appeared in the Guardian here.
  • Vaughan Williams set Ten Blake Songs, available sung by Ian Partridge, John Mark Ainsley, James Bowman and others.
  • Singer Patti Smith featured Blake's songs in the Meltdown festival on London's South Bank during June 2005 - read more in the Guardian page here.

Blake: detail from 'Jerusalem'
'Continually Building, Continually Decaying because of Love
& Jealousy': a detail from 'Jerusalem'