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The Poems of William Blake Summary and Analysis

by William Blake

To the Muses

Summary

“To the Muses” is a complaint against the lost power of the poet in an information-expanding England. Ridiculing a recent chauvinist and misplaced patriotism by the people at Rule Britannica who had just relocated the nine poetic muses to the British Isles, Blake sets out to poke fun at the idea that English poetry is superior to the rest of world.

The speaker is both sentimental (the loss of inspiration in line 15) and satirical (today’s poets are not spiritually inspired, line 16). The Ida referred to in line 1 of the poem is a reference to Mount Ida, which was near Homer’s Troy, and is a reference to the Greek Classics who were the first to recognize the nine muses as the source for their poetic inspiration. In the second line, the “chambers of the east” is an allusion to Hebrew poetry, which also stems back in time much further than anything English. Line four make’s obvious Blake’s contention that all poetic inspiration has “ceas’d.”

Analysis

"To the Muses" is not quite as complicated and layered as most other Blake poems. There are still weighty things to consider: the speaker is at a loss of inspiration and wonders aloud where it has all gone (heaven, the sky, the tops of mountains, the bottom of the sea)? The only thing he knows for certain is that his muses do not rest where the knowledge and reason of Rule Britannica say they do. Placing the muses in the British Isles helps create poetic fraud, where “the sound is forc’d, the notes are few!”

Thus, while a simple poem, "To the Muses" also seems a deeply personal one. Is Blake laying bare his own worries, his own reservations about his art? The poem does have a near-confessional flavor, groping toward a catharsis that seems just out of reach.

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