On the Life and Character of William Blake; or, How the Shit did that Happen?

On the Life and Character of William Blake; or, How the Shit did that Happen?

How is it that people are selected for posterity? How is it that artists are pulled out of their daily life, with their daily concerns, and raised, whether it be before or after their death, propped up for the celebration of millions?

How is it that William Blake, fantastic mad man, is picked out of the relative obscurity of his life and weft and warped into the phantasmagoria that we know him as today? By what process does this happen, and why does it pick the ones that it does?

A man that held all organised religion in antipathy, a man whose body of work restates this again and again, has become the author of one of the most recognisable hymns of the Anglican Church.

He spent a goodly amount of his time sitting around his garden, nude, with his wife. It’s quite likely that, if Blake had been born into our age, he’d have been heavily medicated from the start. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some anti-Pharma advocate – I recognise the benefit and aid that modern psychiatry offers, hell, I’ve been on the receiving end of that benefit myself, in a number of ways. It’s just interesting to reflect on how much of our modern society is built on the work of people who would likely be medicated, whether or not to some narrow, diminished experience of the world, but certainly to an extent that the motivation for their work, the passions and overwhelming emotions they experience, would likely have been removed.

If not for Blake, huge swathes of Western Culture would be missing or hugely altered. It’s likely that the rebellion of the Pre-Raphaelites was a foregone conclusion, but, without Blake’s trailblazing, it would have taken a decidedly different form. There likely would have been no Arts and Crafts movement, as Morris was hugely indebted to Blake’s do-it-yourself ethic. Sure, sure, all of these things are artsy-fartsy aspects, and don’t play into the “real-world” of business and money. But, consider an aside: if not for Robert E. Howard, another noted crazy person, and his Conan character, it’s not implausible that the Governator would not have garnered the popularity that he did, and hence wouldn’t have been able to pass the pro-enviro legislation that he did. Art matters, in surprisingly divergent ways.

Returning to Blake and his idiosyncrasies, he would also go on to have a large impact on the start of Feminism, as we know it. Owing in large part to his heterodox religious ideas, Blake took issue with the concept of marriage and the sub-ordinate role it invariably placed women in. An admirer of Wollstonecraft, he is considered one of the forerunners of 19th century feminism.

As you can see, he was no friend to the Establishment, in an era when said structure was a great deal more authoritarian than our own (though, we’re getting there. Give us some time). And yet, he has been taken up in numberless different ways, influencing and developing huge components of our daily life. Why him, of all the nudist engraver-come-poet heterodox Christians? It is a strange world we live in.

Also, returning to that hymn, check this out, the only version worth listening to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9TbiIEpZJ8

I’ll come clean, it was the whole motivation for the post. Track’s hot.

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Posted on June 5, 2014, in Maunderings and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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