In this essay I will be discussing, firstly, and in the context of my vague understanding of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century society in Britain, the criticism of dominant middle-class thought that William Blake presents in Songs of Experience . I understand that perhaps less than thirty copies of this were ever printed in Blakes lifetime, so any challenge to contemporary conventional thinking was largely unheard, but this does not invalidate exploring the social conditions and attitudes that provoke the poems. I would then like to discuss some of Blakes grander challenges to conventional thought and, in particular, the received truths of orthodox religion as put forth in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell . Here we find not only a challenge to conventional thought, but also a challenge to sanity, and I found it to be the case that after reading and re-reading, just when the poem appears to come into focus and some understanding is reached, the very line which seemed sensible becomes insane, and meaning is lost. This by no means detracts from the worth of the poem, and could be said to be its very argument: that my doors are in need of cleansing. The latter half of the eighteenth-century saw increased antagonism between the upper classes, which believed the lower classes had become riotous and unruly, and the lower classes, which were questioning the authority of the upper classes to keep them in subservience.
Tony Harrison is one of Britain's leading film and theatre poets. He has written for the National Theatre in London, the New York Metropolitan Opera and for the BBC and Channel 4 television. He was born in Leeds, in 1937 and was educated at Leeds Grammar School and Leeds University, where he read Classics and took a diploma in linguistics. Harrison's most vengeful and acclaimed poem 'V' was ...
With the government playing a diminishing role in the economy, and since only wealthy landholders could elect Members of Parliament, the chief concern of the state was the consolidation of property. The great and chief end, said John Locke, of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property. Between 1688 and 1810, parliament added around two hundred capital offences against property. The attitude towards the poor was generally that they were lazy, and so it was harsh treatment that was needed to solve poverty. So, only those wearing a P for pauper could receive charity, and workhouses were established to hide the poor from sight. Of over two thousand children who entered London workhouses between 1750-55, perhaps ninety percent died there, and an extreme example of the treatment of children was the hanging of a seven-year old girl for theft. Growing prosperity amongst the middle class gave rise to a culture of comfort, and a desire for privacy and social segregation.
The defining character of social order, as they saw it, was that nursery of virtue, the family, and the rising standard of living encouraged the development of concepts of childhood and adolescence. We see in Blakes Songs of Experience the spotlight cast on those who could not afford these ideas, who could not afford virtue and respectability. In Holy Thursday, Blake laments that a nation as rich as his should be so miserly and lacking in compassion: Is this a holy thing to see, In a rich and fruitful land, Babes reduced to misery, Fed with cold and usurous hand? (1-4) Here, we have the mild suggestion that the rich are acting irreligiously. As Blake goes on, criticism of middle class virtue become more vigorous, as do his attacks on the established church. They think they have done me no injury: And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King Who make up a heaven of our misery. (The Chimney Sweeper, 10-12) Now, although there was, in the legacy of the Enlightenment, a cynicism towards organised religion, there was nevertheless an increase in religious practice amongst all social classes in the eighteenth-century.
The Report on 1. Within the Globalized Caribbean, Colour and Race Are No Longer Significant Bases for Social Stratification. Discuss This Statement.
1. Within the globalized Caribbean, colour and race are no longer significant bases for social stratification. Discuss this statement. The Caribbean is termed as being globalized based on the view that many countries’ economies are more open and free to interact with other countries across the world whether by trade, politics, media etc, to facilitate a global economy. Globalization by itself ...
And, also, the virtue of Christian morality was never in question. Observation of religious practices and Christian morality endowed the middle classes with a sense of self-worth. It was a method of achieving nobility without a title, since they reasoned that it was not in status, but in virtuousness that nobility resided. We can see these views propagated and reflected in the work of Jane Austen. There was a move to instil these middle class sensibilities into the working class, and John Wesley (1703-1791) preached a populist sermon on the equality of man before God. He aimed to teach the working class of the virtues of abstinence from vice, and the propriety of hard work.
There was a move in the Church of England to indoctrinate the workers-especially children, with Sunday schools where food was provided for the poor. Of course, under this guise of do-gooding, the real achievement of this all was to teach subservience, and respect for ones social superiors. Blakes Songs of Experience really do pose a challenge to all the middle classes hold as virtuous, and what they consider to be the underpinning of all society. They expose the rottenness of imposing a set of rules upon a class of people, which have the effect of robbing them of any little pleasure they might have in an already tough life. The Little Vagabond makes light of this point in his endearing wish that the Church would give us some Ale,/ And a pleasant fire, our souls to regale (The Little Vagabond, 5-6), but it is a poignant exclamation of the vile cultural imperialism to which they are subjected. Blake returns to the point in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, when he states One Law for the Lion and Ox is Oppression, (Plate 24) and in the Proverbs of Hell, The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow, nor the lion the horse how he shall take his prey. (50) Although the language used throughout the Songs is one of innocent sentimentality, and one that encourages sympathy and pity (the most challenging of these in London, where Blake would have the reader feel pity for a prostitute), The Human Abstract puts forth that it is not the pity of the reader he wishes for.
Social class is one of the oldest and most persistent inequalities in British society. In the past, people were very aware of their social class and their expected roles and responsibilities. People would have worn different clothes, behaved in different ways and had a very different culture from each other and they would have accepted this as a perfectly normal element of behaviour. We are still ...
Pity would be no more, If we did not make somebody Poor: And Mercy would no more be, If all were happy as we; (1-4) Pity and mercy, it is suggested, are inventions of the rich to affirm their position in society. How could they be bad people if they feel such compassion for those worse off? In fact, they reason, it is precisely because they have such a capacity for human emotion and virtuous thoughts that they are above the common, vulgar classes. It is in these ways that Blake subtly challenges religious ideology, aiming to persuade and influence the reader, rather than engaging in an indignant, all out attack on conventional sensibility. I think that a problem with Blakes work, here particularly The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, is that it is hard to criticise it. Apart from his apocalyptic use of language, and his persistent abstinence from any elucidation of ideas so that any intended meaning of his is always questionable, he includes many Freudian loopholes that ensure he cannot be proven wrong. When he states that a fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees, (Proverbs of Hell, 8) he is surely saying that if his work looks, to you, madness then it could be you are a fool.
And, Listen to the fools reproach! It is a kingly title! (47) While definitely having a elements of truth in these observations, if we consider them as a defence of his work, this surely rings of Emperors New Clothes Syndrome, does it not? This is, then, perhaps ….