Unheralded and unknown during his life, William Blake has emerged as one of the great British Romantic Poets. These famous quotes from his poems provide a basic understanding of his approach to life, philosophy, and art.
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Quotes and Analyses
Quote: A truth that's told with bad intent / Beats all the lies you can invent. (From "Auguries of Innocence")
Analysis: This couplet serves as an axiom and a warning against self deceivers who are outwardly honest and truthful but inwardly deceitful.
Quote: To see a world in a grain of sand, / And a heaven in a wild flower, / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, / And eternity in an hour.
Analysis: The opening stanza to "Auguries of Innocence" expresses the British Romantic view that individuals grow closer to God and embrace eternal life through becoming one with nature.
Quote: Love seeketh not itself to please. / Nor for itself hath any care; / But for another gives its ease. / And builds a Heaven in Hell's despair. (From "The Clod and the Pebble)
Analysis: The clod (and a very wise clod indeed) explains love's ability to transform.
Quote: Love seeketh only Self to please, / To bind another to its delight; / Joys in another's loss of ease. / And builds a Hell in Heaven's despite.
Analysis: This is the pebble's response--a rather bitter, jaded pebble. The pebble defines selfish love and obsessive love--oxymorons, by the way.
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From The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Blake wrote The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in imitation of Biblical prophecies and through it expresses his beliefs.
Quote: A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
Analysis: Blake deals with the power of perception and attitude, a subject taken up by many of today's foremost thinkers and achievers. Where a fool sees obstacles a wise man sees opportunities. It is the mid that places meaning on the external world--that meaning determines success or failure.
Quote: What is now proved was once only imagined
Analysis: I typed this in a classroom in Henderson, NV. You are not in a classroom in Henderson, NV, yet you are reading the exact words I typed. I dare say I could not even have imagined such a thing 20 years ago. This wisdom can be applied on a more personal level. Anyone who has achieved a difficult goal has experienced the proof of something he or she once only imagined.
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Quote: I was angry with my friend: / I told my wrath, my wrath did end. / I was angry with my foe: / I told it not, my wrath did grow. (From "A Poison Tree")
Analysis: Blake comments on the need to be honest and open with emotions, that harboring ill will toward any, even a foe, poisons the thinker, who then outwardly produces poison. Blake's philosophy on releasing negative energy comes centuries before Hale Dwoskin's Sedona Method.
Quote: For Mercy has a human heart, / Pity a human face, / And Love, the human form divine, / And Peace, the human dress.
Analysis: "The Divine Image" from Songs of Innocence expresses the divine nature inherent in every human being.
Quote: Cruelty has a human heart / And jealousy a human face, / Terror the human form divine, / And secrecy the human dress.
Analysis: The opening stanza of "A Divine Image" from Songs of Experience is an ironic title for a poem dealing with inherent evil possessed by humans. Those things which we consider evil and for which the devil responsible is manifested through human frailty and weakness.
Romanticism refers to a literary movement that began in late eighteenth-century in England. It does not refer to the movement of your hands from the steering wheel to your girlfriends shoulder last Friday.