Special Lecture on Blake – U.R. Ananthamurthy

After the French Revolution, Blake was writing in London, and everyone thought he was a mad man. This is because Blake asked some very fundamental questions in two sets of poems ‘Songs of Innocence’ and ‘Songs of Experience’. The meaning of one poem in one collection is completed in the other. Only after reading both do you understand it. The poet’s stand is that it is neither this nor that, it is only from the coming together of both, a perspective of innocence, and a perspective from experience, can we reach an understanding.

Blake is a literalist of the imagination. He believed in the imagination, literally. Some great thinkers of his kind have made some immense contributions for the emancipation of human kind. There were not just poets, but visionaries.

Wordsworth also went to France, and he came back some kind of nature worshipper. But there is something we should say about Wordsworth, he never lost faith in the common man. But Coleridge’s reaction to the French Revolution was completely different. He turned so Right Wing that when there was a law in the British Parliament to prevent cruelty to animals, Coleridge opposed it saying it ‘smacks of the French Revolution’. that one event changed these poets immensely.

I was influenced by Eliot, but I now think Blake was a much greater poet. Eliot once said, if anyone could have written like Dante, it is Blake. In order to write like Blake, you should be uneducated. Your mind should be free. It should be free of these opinions and notions. There was something in Eliot that wanted to be like Blake, at least in some places of ‘The Wasteland’. Eliot could not be so critical of tradition as Blake was.

For Wordsworth the ‘meanest flower’ inspires him, but for Blake, there is no ‘meanest’ flower. Each flower is something special. One poet belonged within civilisation, and the other slightly outside it.

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