Saturday, 30 January 2016

William Blake, Selected Poetry

Dewy Blake - A Review of William Blake, Selected Poetry, Oxford World's Classics

'Dewy Blake', the title of this review, is poking fun at the author's over use of the word dew, meaning precipitation and moisture. Truth be told, I found this collection mostly underwhelming, despite Blake's reputation as a first rank poet. 

Of the selections I read - I confess that I skim read much of Jerusalem and the last eighty pages of the book - I think I enjoyed King Edward The Third the most as the short play is full of vigorous turns of phrase and lively exchanges as well as the short story Tiriel which had something of the Greek tradition about it. 

Overall, however, I struggled to get a grip with Blake's poetising, unmoved and uninterested in the esoteric, theological and surreal imagery of his work and, for me at least, the rather flimsy philosophical underpinnings of his epigrams and life observations.

Yes, Satan can inspire poetic creation, and so can Jesus and the myriad of obscure names of people and places that litter this collection, but if esotericism divorced from natural law wisdom is all that is on offer, I'm happier reading internet poetry on Tumblr!

I accept that this review entirely reflects my own poetic preferences which dislikes surrealism and fiery imagery in favour of sober and elegant linguistic usage but to my credit I read three quarters of the book closely before giving up on Blake's theological mindscapes which I found, well, boring.

It is very early days in my journey with English poetry but I hope I find authors more congenial to my literary tastes than 'the prophet' William Blake. 

Three stars.