About the BookThe book contains Blake’s poems and songs. “Poetical Sketches” is the first collection of poetry and prose by William Blake, written between 1769 and 1777. It contains poems like “To Spring”, “To Winter”, “To the Evening Star”, and some songs. “All Religions are One” is a series of philosophical aphorisms. This along with “There is No Natural Religion” represents Blake’s first successful attempt to combine image and text via relief etching, and are thus the earliest of his illuminated manuscripts.
“Songs of Innocence and of Experience” is an illustrated collection of poems which appeared in two phases. A few first copies were printed and illuminated by William Blake himself in 1789; five years later he bound these poems with a set of new poems in a volume entitled Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. “Innocence” and “Experience” are definitions of consciousness that rethink Milton’s existential-mythic states of “Paradise” and the “Fall”. Blake’s categories are modes of perception that tend to coordinate with a chronology that would become standard in Romanticism— childhood is a state of protected innocence rather than original sin, but not immune to the fallen world and its institutions. This world sometimes impinges on childhood itself, and in any event becomes known through “experience”, a state of being marked by the loss of childhood vitality, by fear and inhibition, by social and political corruption, and by the manifold oppression of Church, State, and the ruling classes. The volume’s “Contrary States” are sometimes signalled by patently repeated or contrasted titles: “The Little Black Boy”; “The Blossom”; “The Chimney Sweeper”; “The Little Boy Lost”; “The Little Boy Found”; “Laughing Song”; “A Cradle Song”; “The Divine Image”; and “On Another’s Sorrow”. The stark simplicity of these poems shows Blake’s acute sensibility to the realities of poverty and exploitation.
“Notebook” contains autograph drafts by Blake, of poems and prose with numerous sketches and designs, mostly in pencil. Also included in the book are poems like “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”; “America”; “The Songs of Los”; and “The Pickering MS”, to make the book a collection of Blake’s major poems.