Selected Poetry

Selected Poetry

Selected Poetry

Selected Poetry

Synopsis

The Oxford Poetry Library series offers compact and fully annotated editions of some of the most important and best-loved English poets. Drawing on the acclaimed texts of the Oxford Authors series, these collections provide a generous selection of the verse of figures as diverse as Andrew Marvell and William Blake, John Keats and Thomas Hardy. Ideal for anyone interested in the eloquently wrought observations and thoughts of some of the English language's greatest writers, The Oxford Poetry Library should find a welcome place on the bookshelves of all lovers of literature. Beginning his career as an engraver, it was not until his thirties that William Blake distinguished himself as a poet. This new edition of Blake's verse, presented in chronological order, encompasses Blake's entire career, from his early Poetical Sketches and There is No Natural Religion through his best known work Songs of Innocence, part of his beautiful series of poetry in lyric and blank verse, to his later works Jerusalem and The Everlasting Gospel. Representing the full range of Blake's accomplishements as a poet, this outstanding volume highlights the extraordinarily diverse achievements of his remarkable poetic oeuvre.

Excerpt

How should the modem reader approach William Blake? He was a 'Romantic', which at least pigeonholes him—but into a cultural‐ historical category which is not simple. Worse is to come. He was not just a writer, but also a visual artist. Indeed, work for work, Blake can claim to have been more of the latter than the former. When the fact is added that almost all his serious poetry was issued by him with accompanying illustrations, it is clear that Blake-the‐ writer was a very unusual entity, much less coextensive with Blake‐ the-creator than we expect poets to be. In fact there is no parallel for Blake's artistic duality in the rest of English literature.

The idiosyncratic manner in which the texts of such works as The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, America, Songs of Innocence and Experience, and Jerusalem were issued artistically is only the beginning of the strange story of Blake's production. Blake is by no means the only writer ignored or derided in the past whom we now believe to have been great, but the gap between Blake's standing in his own day and his modem reputation exceeds all other cases. Apart from two Innocence lyrics pirated towards the end of his life not a single item of text by Blake achieved commercial publication. This was a different kind of invisibility from that affecting the great poets of the seventeenth century, for example, such as Donne, whose work circulated in manuscript. In the I780s and I790s, when Blake wrote most of his short- and medium-length poems, it was not hard to get into print, and printed publication was certainly the usual way to bring yourself to the attention of readers and critics. Blake did start to go down the road of orthodox publication, but the conventionally printed sheets of his Poetical Sketches (1783) were never bound into book form for commercial issue. Eight years later the first two books of a projected epic, The French Revolution, were typeset by the publisher Joseph Johnson—but never got beyond proof stage. It may be argued that Blake deliberately adopted the technique of printing his poetry from engraved plates as an alternative to conventional printing from movable type. If so, the strategy failed as a means of reaching a numerous readership. Blake's most successful engraved work was The Songs of Innocence, but he probably produced less than a hundred copies of this in his . . .

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