William Blake Essay - Critical Essays (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Biography Series)

Analysis

In his foreword, Daugherty states that Blake’s life and work are more important for the world than ever before. Daugherty believes that the qualities of imagination and vision, which Blake’s work exemplifies so fully, can, when supported by courage and faith, create world peace and justice. Everyone in the modern world, according to Daugherty, needs imagination—scientists, business managers, engineers, and lawmakers. Used with their full creative force, imagination and vision are more powerful tools for creating a sane and peaceful world than the deterrent of nuclear weapons is (Daugherty was writing at a time when the Cold War was at its height).

Accordingly, it is these qualities that are emphasized in the biography. Blake is presented as a somewhat otherworldly mystic, wrapped up in his obscure but beautiful visions that few people could intellectually understand but that could evoke a powerful aesthetic and emotional response. The strong revolutionary and political element in Blake’s work is largely ignored. Indeed, several passages in Daugherty’s narrative might lead the reader to suppose that Blake, when he thought of political matters at all, was a conservative. Two examples will suffice. First, Daugherty declares that the Gordon Riots in 1780 were caused by “political troublemakers,” ignoring the fact that Blake was undoubtedly sympathetic to their cause. Second, there is not even a hint in Daugherty’s reference to the Napoleonic Wars that Blake was opposed to the war policies of the British government. On the contrary, Daugherty implies that Blake gained satisfaction from hearing about the failure of Napoleon to break the British hold on India.

Daugherty seems to place more emphasis on Blake’s work as an artist than as a poet. Blake’s longer poems, such as Vala: Or, The Four Zoas (wr. 17951804), Milton: A Poem (18041808), and Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion (18041820),...

(The entire section is 801 words.)