How did the Industrial Revolution affect William Blake's poetry? Here is what I have so far: Blake and Wordsworth were part of the Romantic Movement. Wordsworth began to worship nature. For...

How did the Industrial Revolution affect William Blake's poetry?

Here is what I have so far:

Blake and Wordsworth were part of the Romantic Movement. Wordsworth began to worship nature. For Wordsworth, the Revolution was an inspiration and a hope, a sign that human imagination and hope could reshape the world for the better.

Blake saw the Revolution as a prophetic sign of the transformation of the world. Once, a drunk solider was in Blake’s garden. Blake ejected him and was then tried for treason.

I would like more information on this. May you please help me? Thank you

Expert Answers
thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You are off to a good start here in thinking about the relationship between Blake and nature. As with the other Romantics, Blake had a deep love of Nature and was strongly opposed to the Industrial Revolution. As Blake routinely had visual and auditory hallucinations and also invented his own personal and very confusing religion, his work can be difficult to follow, but his opposition to the Industrial Revolution is consistent across his entire body of work.

The rapid industrialization of England had several effects of which Blake disapproved. First, it led to massive urbanization, leading to overcrowded slums that were breeding grounds for epidemic diseases. These slums had no sanitary facilities, meaning that the streets were covered with horse manure, garbage, and human waste, and the limited sewers contaminated the drinking water. The cities and new manufacturing plants employed child labor and had no forms of worker protection, with shifts often running 12-16 hours seven days a week. Blake's work reflects the human cost of the Industrial Revolution. 

Blake's poem "The Chimney Sweeper: When my mother died I was very young" portrays young children sold off into slave-like apprenticeships in which they did the job of crawling down and cleaning chimneys (they started at 4 or 5 when they were small enough to fit in narrow chimneys). Their lives are portrayed as miserable; the kind angel who appears in their dreams takes them to a green pastoral environment where they can play; unfortunately, Christianity, for Blake, was a illusion, like the dreams of the young boys, and complicit in the oppression of the class structure and economic inequality of the Industrial Revolution.

Blake's most popular poem, "Jerusalem," includes the lines:

And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills....

Here, the "Satanic Mills" actually refer to churches, which Blake identifies with factories as complicit in destroying "Englands green & pleasant Land."

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Industrial Revolution built a middle class of workers who had, for the first time in history, access to a more comfortable lifestyle because of increase of accessible products, increase in wages and decrease in illness. This economic and material gain came at the expense of the air and the land.

The smokes of the Industrial Revolution became infamous and, more importantly, choking. They obscured the view of and access to Nature. Poets like William Blake have for all time sung the praises of Nature, among other themes, and now Nature was being, literally, blackened.

William Blake was known as a seer, some thought him mentally unbalanced. Blake despised the effects of industrialization on Nature. Blake saw industrialization as a negative "transformation of the world." In his poetry he tried to draw a picture of the reality of these effects of industrialization and he tried to warn that if careful thought and action were not taken, Nature would become further and increasingly further removed from humanity's reach. And such has been the case.