Symbol and Image in William Blake

By George Wingfield Digby | Go to book overview

II
THE ARLINGTON COURT PICTURE: REGENERATION

WILLIAM BLAKE believed that the expression of human experience in art and poetry was an important function of living. Everyone dreams, cogitates, asks questions of life. Most people could, if they wanted, use art in one of its many forms--painting, sculpture, poetry, music, acting--as part of the serious, but pleasurable, study and business of life. Art is as important a part of living as is any other serious activity. In a letter written to the Monthly Magazine about the year 1806/7, Blake in defending his friend the painter Fuseli, burst out with the affirmation of this idea:

But Oh, Englishmen! Know that every man ought to be a judge of pictures, and every man is so who has not been connoisseured out of his senses.1

Blake meant his art to be understood, experienced, explored. His drawing and painting, like his poetic writing, is always primarily devoted to the psychological meaning of experience. To anyone who is at all aware of subjective states and who has made any attempt to study his own dreams and phantasies, this is at once apparent. Nor are Blake's images and symbols, by means of which he expresses himself, so very strange and unfamiliar. But of course it is necessary to become acquainted with the cast of Blake's mind, as shown in a fair amount of his work. Even one's own dreams have to be studied in their proper context and over a considerable period, if one really wishes to understand them. The same obviously applies to Blake's imaginative art. Moreover, Blake has very exceptional things to say; the thoughts and feelings he has to impart are often

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1
The Letters of William Blake. Edited by A. G. B. Russell ( Methuen, 1906), Letter 50.

-54-

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Symbol and Image in William Blake
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Illustrations (At End) xi
  • Introduction xv
  • The Gates of Paradise for the Sexes 1
  • I - The Gates of Paradise 5
  • Epilogue 52
  • II - The Arlington Court Picture: Regeneration 54
  • III - On the Understanding of Blake's Art 94
  • Notes 128
  • Select Bibliography 130
  • Addendum 133
  • Index of Quotations from Blake 135
  • General Index 137
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