Infinity on the Anvil: A Critical Study of Blake's Poetry

By Stanley Gardner | Go to book overview

NOTES

CHAPTER I
1
This, and the other two prose pieces, The Couch of Death and Contemplation, yield interesting evidence on Blake's method, identical in prose and poetry; ideas and images persist into the prose, e.g. the idea of sin clothing the body ('sin covers me as a cloak'), as against the Innocence of the naked body; here, too, is the identity of joy with flourishing nature ('delights blossom around; numberless beauties blow; the green grass springs in joy'). Here is the image of the flesh as a prison, in relation with the clothing of sin ('I am wrapped in mortality'), and the link between death and the bones of the body ('my flesh is a prison, my bones the bars of death') once Innocence is broken and body recognized out of union with the soul. There follows, too, the inevitable Blakean corollary, the development from the clothing of sin to the idea of the human frame as 'death cloathed in flesh'. This is, indeed, the formidable language of Experience already latent in Blake's mind.
2
Cp. Song: Fresh from the dewy hill, the merry year. This Song offers a contrast with true Innocence at many points.
3
It is the definition formulated by Aristotle, Bacon, Coleridge, and other critics, in different terms.
4
Intuitive love: that is, love complete, uncompelled, unself-conscious, with no connotation of promiscuity.
5
Already in the Songs of Innocence the angels move in silence, and are unseen; and silence and invisibility become two aspects of the Urizen concept. Also, in the poem A Dream the image of weaving is already associated with shade, angels, and dreams; and later weaving is associated with the 'eternal female', as, of course, are dreams and shadows.

CHAPTER II
1
These lines were written over twelve months before the letter in which they were enclosed.
2
The Life of William Blake, vol i, p. 41, footnote.
3
The mythological figure, Urizen, only comes to mean 'the Prince of Light', Lucifer, in the final books, and until these are discussed I use the name in its earlier, and more common, connotation of the tyranny of Reason and religious doctrine, which Blake saw as inhibiting the full expression of imagination and desire.
4
cp. v, ll. 232-234: vide v, l. 219et seq. This passage, though extravagant, derives a power typically Blakean from the references to sky and earth brought to focus on the issue--a range lacking in the previous passage quoted.
5
cp. the 'fire-breathing steed', i, l. 39; and To Summer in Poetical Sketches.
6
Luvah, i.e. Love; the association with springs and steeds is of importance.
7
cp. The Little Black Boy, Songs of Innocence.
8
There is no Natural Religion, 2nd series, ii.
9
cp. ll. 67, 80, 81, 86, 105, 171, etc.

CHAPTER III
1
cp. Why should I care for the men of thames. 'Tho' born on the cheating banks of Thames, Tho' his waters bathed my infant limbs, The Ohio shall wash his stains from me: I was born a slave, but I go to be free.'
2
cp. To Nobodaddy (p. 120; 93).
3
cp. The Sick Rose: Songs of Experience.
4
cp. P. Berger, William Blake; Poet and Mystic, p. 64.

-153-

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Infinity on the Anvil: A Critical Study of Blake's Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction on the Nature of Poetic Symbolism 1
  • Chapter I- The Beginnings in Innocence 15
  • Chapter II- The Edge of Experience 31
  • Chapter III- The Conflict in Experience 46
  • Chapter IV- Infinity on the Anvil 77
  • Chapter V- Songs of Experience 100
  • Chapter VI- Disintegration 132
  • Notes 153
  • A Short Reading List 156
  • Index 157
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