top of page
by William Blake
Listen on bandcamp
William Blake is another genius from the working-class. As such, Blake islike Marie Sklodowskya-Curie (winner of Nobel Prizes in both Physics and Chemistry), mathematician Katherine Johnson, Bob Marley, and many more.
William Blake was born to a hosier in London England, 1757, and home-schooled by his mother. He became an independent engraver and printer in 1779. His inborn being was mystic and visionary and his expression was both literary and visual. He wrote to one friend: 'I am not ashamed, afraid, or averse to tell you what Ought to be Told: That I am under the direction of Messengers from Heaven, Daily & Nightly; but the nature of such things is not, as some suppose, without trouble or care.'
In the 1790s Blake wore a red beret around town to show alliance with the French Revolution, when England was Jacobin France's enemy. He married Catherine Boucher in 1791. Catherine was 'an illiterate and poor woman from Battersea across the Thames'. Blake taught his wife to read and write and found in their marriage abiding rapport and support.
In 1827 William Blake died at an old age, 70, for the middle Industrial Revolution. The poet greeted death with hymns and other songs. He was buried in an unmarked grave of Bunfell Fields. 'The Tyger' is a poem from Songs of Experience that saw its publication among his 18th-century 'illuminated manuscripts'.
A wonderfu introduction to William Blake remains the book edited by Jacob Bronowski for the Penguin Poets series.
You may want to check out, too, radio-presenter Mr. Gee and Hip-Hop artist Akala (Akala is the Buddhist term for "Immovable") in their video about Blake and his poem 'London'.
Maryse Philippe Déjean is the reader of 'The Tyger' here. Maryse was born in Haiti and lived as a child and student in Arcahaie and Port-au-Prince, the Republic of Guinea in west Africa, and Washington, DC. Maryse is currently Coordinator of Community Engagement and of Volunteers at WWOZ in New Orleans and a show-host at that radio-station.
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?'
bottom of page