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1757-1827 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 A Poison Tree in Songs of Experience William Blake the son of a London hosier did not receive any formal education but was self-taught in many respects before he enrolled as an apprentice to James Basire who was the engraver for the Society of Antiquities Following this he studied at the Royal Academy and made a living from the age of twenty-two onwards as an engraver for Joseph Johnson a famously radical bookseller who published Mary Wollstonecrafts writing among others In 1782 he married Catherine Boucher and their marriage was a lasting and happy one although it produced no children At this time Blake came under the spell of Macphersons Ossianic writings and fell into the company of various intellectuals such as Flaxman and the circle of the Reverend A S Mathew With their aid Blake published his first book of poetry Poetical Sketches 1783 and set up his own print shop in 1784 From this time onwards Blake took the rather unusual step of engraving rather than printing his works and doing so himself He made his own ink hand-printed the pages illustrated them himself and got his wife to sew the covers on This cottage industry produced two of the best loved and original books of poetry of the eighteenth century namely Songs of Innocence 1789 and Songs of Experience 1794 Their poems were written in a simple style that made them accessible for children and they show two opposite worlds one in which God is trusted implicitly and there is no question of moral issues and one in which the fallen state is examined and religious hypocrisy is examined They question on a basic level the Enlightenment mode of thinking about Christianity in all its repressive Puritanical vainglory These themes continue in
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