Dover Book

Text Box with description of Book

    William Blake certainly did not get the recognition he deserved in his own lifetime, but as the centuries have passed more critics are proclaming his due merit. Jonathan Jones of England's The Guardian has declared him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced," according to Wikipedia. In 2002, he was listed at number 38 in a BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. Certainly Dover Publications carries a whole slew of his works, of both visual arts and poetry, but his poetry is a combination of both. He was an innovator, very religious, but with his own interpretation of religion, and his own views about social mores, including sex. He died poor and forgotten but by a few. Until 1965, the exact location of his grave was not even known, and it was only in August of this year, 2018, that the memorial stone was replaced to the correct spot.
    Blake was born in London in 1757, and died there in 1827. He was considered mad for his views. He married Catherine Boucher in 1782 after being jilted by another woman, which was good, because he and Catherine had a close and lifelong marriage. I won't say much more about him here, but you can read more on the William Blake Index Page.
    I will say a little about this collection, and little is the word here. This is a tiny booklet, only 7x5 1/2 inches containing 55 pages, and can be read, even while pondering each of the poems, in an hour or so, (much less if one does not ponder, but what is the sense of reading it then?). It contains 22 poems, plus the Introduction, all decorated with Blake's very distinct style of artistry. As the title suggests, it is about children and for them, too, as the poems would be pleasing reading to or with a small child. Blake did not believe in "original sin," but rather believed childhood was a state of protected innocence. The Dover collection is based on the original 1789 edition from the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection in the Library of Congress, and who granted permission for this facsimile publication, for which we are grateful. In Blake's time, this also appeared in a collection with another of his works, Songs of Experience, in which some of the same poems are included. Songs of Experience was not printed in an edition alone in Blake's time. Dover first published it as a separate volume in 1984, which I also own. Some of Blake's works are available at Project Gutenberg, but the artwork is not in color. The University of Adelaide in Australia, however, has more of his works, and they are in color. Their editions are often better quality than Project Gutenberg, so I use them often.
    The last thing I will do here is share some information from the Dover Publisher's Note. Blake supposedly got the idea for his method from a dream sent by his deceased brother. The poems and design were to be engraved on a copperplate, then each copy of the book colored with washes by hand, making each one a little different. Oh my, what work that must have been. And one more point about the Dover editions. Since the facsimiles of poetry merged with art are difficult to impossible to read, a standard printing of each poem also is included, following the original book, which only takes up 32 pages, and is immensely helpful.
    To end this review, I will share some of the artwork, which can easily be found online, and include one poem in its entirety.
    Below are, the first plate from The Ecchoing Green, the second plate from Little Girl Found, and the second plate from A Cradle Song.

Little Girl Found

A Cradle Song

The Ecchoing Green

    Here are the two plates from Spring, followed by the text of the poem.

Spring

Spring

Spring

Sound the Flute!
Now it's mute.
Birds delight
Day and Night;
Nightingale
In the dale.
Lark in Sky.
Merrily,
Merrily, Merrily, to welcome in the Year.

Little Boy,
Full of joy;

Little Girl,
Sweet and small:
Cock does crow,
So do you;
Merry voice,
Infant noise,
Merrily, Merrily, to welcome in the Year.

Little Lamb,
Here I am;
Come and lick
My white neck;
Let me pull
Your soft Wool
Let me kiss
Your soft face:
Merrily, Merrily, we welcome in the Year.

    As you have gathered from this review, Blake and his ideas and innovations were extremely important to the development of art and poetry, and so I highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with his works if this is where your interests lie.

frosdvm

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