Romantic poetry originated in Europe in the late 18th century as a part of the Romantic Movement. This poetry puts an emphasis on the importance of self-expression and individuality, along with an almost religious or devout response to nature. Many poets such as Shelley, Wordsworth, and Byron are apart of the Romantic era, but one of the very first to write romantic poetry was William Blake. Blake wrote hundreds of poems of love and of praise to the natural world that surrounded him.
Many of Blake’s poems concentrate on innocence and love, but he broke this pattern when he wrote “Love’s Secret,” which concentrates on that fact that there is freedom found in not being in love. The speaker in this poem expresses his feelings to his lover, who rejects him and quickly moves on to the next man who comes her way. The tone at the beginning of the poem is dark and depressed, but as the poem continues the speaker realizes that by not being in love he doesn’t have to worry about anyone but himself, and by the end of the poem, when his lover took off with someone who was just passing by, the tone was relieved and peaceful. Blake uses repetition of the line, “Silently, Invisibly” when speaking of how one should stay silent and not confess their feelings because it will only get them hurt, and when describing how his lover left him. The irregular rhyme scheme symbolizes the speaker’s mixed feelings of what he has experienced, he feels both betrayed and free at the same time. A determination to not take pity on himself from the heartbreak he has gone through motivates the speaker to move forward and to realize that his love, who came and went as silently as the wind, was not worth the jealousy and heart ache she had caused him.
In “The Angel,” Blake contrasts purity and corruption. This poem is about a young dreamer who dreams of being an innocent queen being protected by an angel. This angel guards the dreamer through sadness and sorrow, and in order to keep the love and affection of the angel close, the dreamer hides her happiness. The angel then learns of the dreamers happiness, figures out he is being used, and leaves to not return until the dreamer had “grey hairs” on her head. Once in isolation, the speaker realizes that she is on her own to face her fears, both mental and physical. When the angel finally returned he found the dreamer to be corrupted and stuck in bad ways. The poem starts out with a theme of innocence and youth, but as the dreamer grows and starts to take advantage of her angel, the theme changes to corruption and old age. The euphonic language and aabb rhyme scheme, that Blake regularly uses, allows the poem to flow like a memory or dream, despite the theme change. With words like “armed” and “shields and spears” in this poem we can conclude that a spiritual battle is being fought over the dreamers soul. The angel is fighting to find any goodness left in the dreamer, while the dreamer feels it’s too late and she can’t be helped. “The Angel” puts an emphasis on how easily innocence can be lost and how darkness will be exposed, despite someones best efforts to hide out in the dark as the dreamer did.
“The Cradle” is a perfect example of Blake incorporating the natural world and beyond in one of his poems. The straightforward aabbcc rhyme scheme implies that this poem was meant to be lyrics. This poem is a sweet song or lullaby being sung by a mother to her child. At the beginning of the poem the mother is content and at peace with her beautiful, innocent child, but as the poem progresses we see the fears the mother has for her child’s future. Blake uses continual night-and-day imagery throughout this poem to suggest the peace of heaven that awaits the young child in his next life, and the darkness and fears the mother has for her child’s time on Earth.
Words like “sweet”, “happy”, and “smiles” are repeated throughout this entire poem. The euphonic language is proof that although the mother is worried about what the harsh world will do to her child, she doesn’t want her baby to worry so she will continue to only allow him to hear her happy soothing voice to help him stay innocent for as long as possible. The repeated theme of experience stealing innocence is evident in this poem. All the mother can do is hold on to the hope that a better life awaits her child in heaven with God.
William Blake’s poem, “ Divine Image,” focuses on the relationship between God and man. This poem indicates that humans are made in the image of God and that when blessed, humans often credit God for those blessings. The simplicity of this poem goes beyond a straightforward message. The syntax is elementary, along with the sentence structure and phrasing. The youthful message suggests that every person, no matter how different, is a child of the heavenly Father. The repetition of the phrase “Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love ” throughout this poem show the readers the consistency of God’s presence in a person’s life, and how no matter what sins a person commits, God and his characteristics are steadfast. The poem starts out describing a single person and their relationship with God, and towards the end Blake groups all people together and says “ And all must love the human form” to explain that people have a responsibility to love one another, because each and every one of them were created in the image of the Divine. The irregular rhyme scheme that Blake uses implies that everyone has a different walk when it comes to their relationship with the all-powerful God.
While many poems in the romantic movement focus on innocence or innocence lost, “A Poison Tree,” by Blake, emphasizes the importance of expressing anger and not keeping it bottled up. This concept goes against the social norm of the time this poem was written. People were to keep a happy face and not cause any trouble. Blake writes about the danger of keeping anger inside, and how if not expressed, anger will grow and fester, and this is where the metaphorical tree comes in. This tree is a biblical allusion to the first book in the bible when Adam and Eve eat fruit from the tree they were forbidden to eat from, causing all mankind to follow in their footsteps as sinners. By allowing anger to grow “poison” is being produced and poisonous words, thoughts, and actions will come from the one who bottles up his anger and allows it to eat him up inside. Antithesis is used to make opposing words contrast. Examples of this would be “night” and “bright,” “end and grow,” along with “smiles” and “wiles.” Repetition of words like “I,” “mine,” and “my” in this poem imply that dealing with anger is a personal issue that one should work on and take care of by themself. The rhyme scheme is a aabb rhyme scheme this allows the poem to flow like lyrics, very similar to “A Cradle Song” and “The Angel,” along with many other poems by Blake that have the same exact rhyme scheme.
William Blake’s poetry has shown what it is to be human and how different each person’s experience in life will likely be. Some lose their innocence, while others grasp onto it for dear life. Some express their feelings only to get hurt, while others find freedom in expression. Some find that bottling up their feelings helps for a short time, but ultimately ends up hurting them. Blake’s poems all have a theme in common, whether in the poem directly or indirectly, innocence. Innocence is a characteristic that each person comes into the world possessing, and along the way is lost, but if a life has been lived through respect for one another, if a life has celebrated nature, and if a life has found personal freedom, then that innocence will be restored in the next life according to William Blake and his work.