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Blake's had a big influence on hippies and rebellious rock stars and poets like Jim Morrison and Allen Ginsberg.

But Blake wasn't puffing the magic dragon or trippin' on goofball pills or whatever it is that those guys were doing. His visions were beamed into his head naturally —it was just the way he was. But Blake wasn't, like everyone in his time assumed, "insane.

It's a good place to start. Blake believed that the tiniest part of reality—like a grain of sand or a wildflower—could, if viewed with imagination and energy, suddenly reveal profound truths about the entire cosmos.

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So "Auguries" lets people get used to Blake's method, which he uses in all of his other works: Get your magnifying glasses ready, because we're about to "see a world in a grain of sand. Maybe we should turn on one of those Real Housewives shows or something…. But no—we need to give you a reason to read "Auguries of Innocence," which talks about seeing "a world in a grain of sand.

Apparently, you can't really do this with a magnifying glass. You see, when William Blake wrote this poem, he was trying to get people to see reality in a new way.


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But Blake really wanted people to see the world not just as a bunch of stupid trees and houses and cars and people all standing or driving around or walking or being boring. In Blake's view, reality isn't just boring and stupid. To paraphrase a poet okay—actually, Insane Clown Posse , there's magic up in this world.

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He thinks a little thing like a leaf falling from a tree, or a robin in a cage, or a guy wielding a baseball bat and screaming at a bunch kids to get off his lawn—all of these things can reveal great truths and bits of wisdom. He learned to read and write at home. At age ten, Blake expressed a wish to become a painter, so his parents sent him to drawing school. Two years later, Blake began writing poetry. When he turned fourteen, he apprenticed with an engraver because art school proved too costly. One of Blake's assignments as apprentice was to sketch the tombs at Westminster Abbey, exposing him to a variety of Gothic styles from which he would draw inspiration throughout his career.

After his seven-year term ended, he studied briefly at the Royal Academy. In , he married an illiterate woman named Catherine Boucher. Blake taught her to read and to write, and also instructed her in draftsmanship. Later, she helped him print the illuminated poetry for which he is remembered today; the couple had no children. In he set up a printshop with a friend and former fellow apprentice, James Parker, but this venture failed after several years.

For the remainder of his life, Blake made a meager living as an engraver and illustrator for books and magazines.

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In addition to his wife, Blake also began training his younger brother Robert in drawing, painting, and engraving. Robert fell ill during the winter of and succumbed, probably to consumption. As Robert died, Blake saw his brother's spirit rise up through the ceiling, "clapping its hands for joy. Blake's first printed work, Poetical Sketches , is a collection of apprentice verse, mostly imitating classical models.

He published his most popular collection, Songs of Innocence , in and followed it, in , with Songs of Experience. Some readers interpret Songs of Innocence in a straightforward fashion, considering it primarily a children's book, but others have found hints at parody or critique in its seemingly naive and simple lyrics.

Auguries of Innocence by William Blake

Both books of Songs were printed in an illustrated format reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts. The text and illustrations were printed from copper plates, and each picture was finished by hand in watercolors. Blake was a nonconformist who associated with some of the leading radical thinkers of his day, such as Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft. In defiance of 18th-century neoclassical conventions, he privileged imagination over reason in the creation of both his poetry and images, asserting that ideal forms should be constructed not from observations of nature but from inner visions.

He declared in one poem, "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's.


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  7. Theological tyranny is the subject of The Book of Urizen In the prose work The Marriage of Heaven and Hell , he satirized oppressive authority in church and state, as well as the works of Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish philosopher whose ideas once attracted his interest. In Blake moved to the seacoast town of Felpham, where he lived and worked until under the patronage of William Hayley.

    He taught himself Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Italian, so that he could read classical works in their original language.