Pure Vision, Pure Song
WHEN William Blake was four years old he screamed because he saw God put his forehead against the window. At eight, when he was walking in the fields, he beheld "a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough with stars." Even the year of his birth was prophetic. Swedenborg, whose mystical philosophy was an answer to eighteenth-century rationalism, had predicted that the old world would end and a new one begin in the year 1757.
Blake's gift of vision may have seemed strange in the London hosiery shop which was his home; but his father was of Irish descent, and the family were Swedenborgians. Blake was never sent to school. Apprenticed as a child to an engraver, he found his own way into art and literature. Between his twelfth and twentieth year he wrote a series of poems as amazing as anything in English literature. Seemingly imitative of his predecessors, and in particular of the Elizabethan and Jacobean song writers, he surpassed all but the very greatest in his youthful POETICAL SKETCHES. Such poems as the SONG: "How sweet I roamed from field to field," reputedly written before Blake was fourteen, the SONG: "My silks and fine array," TO THE EVENING STAR, and TO THE MUSES carry on the tradition of English lyrics. But they add a new purity; they enrich the language with unexplainable perfection. These early poems may be re-examined as a "bridge" between the Elizabethan Renaissance and the