First appearing in 1981, this book was the first full-length study of the Songs of Innocence and Experience to be published in almost fifteen years. The book provides detailed readings of each poem and its accompanying design, to redirect attention to the nature and achievement of the book as a whole, to Songs as a single, carefully unified work of verbal and visual art. Particularly close attention is paid, not only to the designs Blake etched to accompany his poems, but also to the many books and treatises for and about children to which, it is argued, Songs alludes or is indebted. Like so many important works of this period, Songs is shown to be autobiographical in nature, one of Blake’s attempts to order and account for the conflicts and crises of his own art and life. Its story is that of an artist’s growth into and out of vision, and of his gradual realization of the dangers and deficiencies of the prophetic mode.
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