William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was scarcely known during his lifetime, was considered mad by those who were aware of him, sold very few copies of his work, and was buried in a mass grave with borrowed money. Now that he can no longer profit from his works, he’s considered favorably as a poet and engraver.
His introduction to this volume of poems, written and engraved in 1894, shows the style of the work. Readers definitely need the illustrations in order to enjoy the intended scope and meaning of the work.
This edition promises the engravings that belong with the work.
From the Publisher
“This stylish reissue of Blake’s timeless work is sumptuously packaged in burnt-orange casing with gold sprayed edges, which allude to the treasures within.
“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.”
Wikipedia notes that, “Geoffrey Keynes says that Blake, as the prophet ‘calls the Fallen Man to regain control of the world, lost when he adopted Reason (the ‘starry pole’) in place of Imagination.’ Earth symbolizes the Fallen Man within the poem. Blake (‘the voice of the Bard’) calls him to awake from the evil darkness and return to the realm of Imagination, reassuming the light of its previous ‘prelapsarian’ state. Reason (the ‘starry pole’) and the Sea of Time and Spece (the ‘watr’ry shore’) “are there only till the break of day if Earth would consent to leave ‘the slumberous mass'”
As a reader biased in favor of Blake’s work, I feel that time spent with this volume is time well spent.