The Poems of William Blake

The Poems of William Blake Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Pick 3 poems and discuss the way in which Blake uses the theme of opposition to present his object and position. What are the opposites he uses? How does he set them up in the poem? What is he saying by comparing them?

    Answer key:

    - the poems selected should be poems where the overarching theme is a comparison of opposition

    - the writer should both compare the oppositions in terms of how they are different as well as how they are similar to each other

    - the writer should identify and discuss the moment of transition, or the process of transition from one state to the next

    - the writer should attempt to select a state in which he/she feels the speaker prefers over its opposition, and defend that argument.

  2. 2

    “Memory, come hither” and “To the Muses” are two poems in which Blake testifies against the contemporary form of writing poetry. Does he argue his point convincingly? In what ways (words, poetic devices) can we as readers tell that the subject of the poem is poetry itself?

    Answer key:

    - the writer should clearly identify Blake's reference to the art form of the written word in both poems

    - the writer should be able to convincingly argue the sarcastic tone in each of the poems. He/she can do this by illustrating how the speaker stands for that which Blake himself refuses

    - the writer should discuss poetic devices such as metaphor, simile, tone, and imagery as evidence to Blake's wry voice

    - the writer should discuss how convinced the reader should be of the fact that Blake was intending to poke fun at literary tradition

  3. 3

    William Blake uses a lot of personification and anthropomorphism in his poetry. Select five poems discussed and show how the poet uses these devices to articulate his thoughts on his subject. Identify the personification or anthropomorphic phrasing and place it in context with the overall theme of the poem.

    Answer key:

    - the writer should demonstrate a clear understanding of the poetic terms 'personification' and 'anthropomorphism'

    - he/she should define how Blake uses human emotion in a natural setting to reflect the thoughts and imagination of the poet

    -the writer should clearly identify the overall theme to poem he/she is discussing and clearly explain how the use of personification and anthropomorphism supports that thematic idea

  4. 4

    Who is at fault for the fall from grace “The Crystal Cabinet,” the speaker or the maiden?

    Answer key:

    - the writer should clearly select a person to be at fault for the fall from grace and should work to support that claim. Whether it be the speaker or the maiden, the writer should not waiver between the two.

    - the writer should acknowledge and identify how a reader can interpret the opposing figure to be the cause of the fall, and argue against those points

    - the writer should demonstrate an understanding of the cause and effect of the actions by the characters in the poem and relate it to an overall theme and comment Blake is making about mankind and his own experience

  5. 5

    Pick a ‘cycle’ theme and place it in “The Season Poems.” Provide a detailed analysis throughout all four poems, interconnecting the theme you have chosen.

    Answer key:

    - a general Blake theme should be used (religion, sexuality, loss of innocence, revolution, man in nature are all themes that can be discussed)

    - the writer should be able to carry out a coherent discussion of said theme throughout all four poems demonstrating an ability to analyze interconnectedness of one theme between the four poems

    - he/she should discuss opposition and how the theme moves from one pole to its opposite and then begins to sway back again as the poems cycle through the seasons

    - a suggested "answer" or poet "opinion/comment" can be assumed, and if so, the writer should identify key points throughout the four poems that support his/her contention for the point of view of the poet

  6. 6

    In “Hear thy voice” the question is left unanswered in the end whether the fallen soul listens to the voice of the bard or the ‘Holy Word.’ Which one is it? Defend your argument.

    Answer key:

    - the writer needs to demonstrate a clear understanding of the difference between the speaker of the poem and the father/speaker of "the holy word"

    - it should be made clear which of the two "words" the bard's "lapsed souls" are listening to

    - the writer should acknowledge and identify how a reader can interpret the opposing point of view to and argue against those points

  7. 7

    Discuss Blake’s use of sexuality in his poetry. Pick three poems and analyze sexual imagery, symbolism, and Blake’s overall argument about the role of sex in humanity.

    Answer key:

    - the writer should show a clear understanding of Blake's feeling towards sexual oppression in his lifetime

    - poems discussed could be: "To the Evening Star"; "The Four Season Poems"; "How sweet I roam'd"; "Love and Harmony Combine"; "I saw a chapel" and "The Crystal Cabinet"

    - the writer should identify the sexual imagery and symbolism in the poems and explain its double meaning

    - the writer should express an understanding for why Blake needed to speak in poetic code when discussing sexuality and his overall message to the sexuality theme (that being: oppression of desire and what is natural)

  8. 8

    “‘A War Song to Englishmen’ stands out from the rest of Blake’s poetry.” Agree or disagree. Why? Support your argument.

    Answer key:

    - Agree: It's a patriotic war song and Blake was against war and against the military of the UK

    - Disagree: It's a call for revolution by the people and not a war on foreign land for territorial gain

    - Agree: Blake feel's there is nobility in death for a cause and dying on the battlefield is heroic

    - Disagree: Blake is mocking those who have died in battle before us, and his tone towards their heroism is sarcastic

    - Agree: Blake goes against his theme that innocence is the ideal state and we should strive for a world of peace and harmony rather than seek battle and hatred between one another

    - Disagree: Blake's repeated theme of revolution and a call to end all of mankind's slavery is the message to the battle cry, and it's song is meant to reach much beyond the shores of England ans is a call to all mankind

  9. 9

    How does Blake view and handle religion in his poetry? Was Blake an Atheist? An Agnostic? What were his personal views on religion?

    Answer key:

    - the writer must establish a clear opinion on what Blake's view of religion and God were

    - the writer should support his/her argument using specific examples from poems that discuss religion, such as:"All Religions Are One / There Is No Natural Religion"; "Cradle Song"; "Mad Song"; "The Season Poems"; and "I saw a chapel"

    - the writer should mention the poet's invention of his own mythology

    - no matter what the writer chooses to argue Blake was, the writer should acknowledge the oppression Blake associated with mankind's treating of religion

  10. 10

    Looking at only the “Auguries of Innocence,” provide an in-depth analysis of the couplets. What are some of the metaphors being used? How do they serve as “auguries?” How do all the couplets come together to form one overall argument supporting the opening quatrain?

    Answer key:

    - the writer must demonstrate a clear understanding of what an augury is

    - he/she should acknowledge the theme of opposition in this "couplet" form

    - the reader should show an in-depth analysis of several couplets and how they relate to Biblical reference, symbology, and other literary allusions

    - the writer should develop an overall thesis as to what the poet's intentions were with combining all of the couplets into one lengthy poem, and how this works to support the argument that is made in the opening quatrain

  11. 11

    How well does William Blake present his argument that humankind was living in a state of repression and oppression during his lifetime? Look closely at at least three poems discussed to present your argument.

    Answer key:

    - the writer should recognize that this was the basis of most of Blake's canon

    - poems discussed could be: "Cradle Song"; "Hear thy voice"; "Mad Song"; "To the Evening Star"; "The Season Poems"; "How sweet I roam'd"; "A War Song"; "I saw a chapel"; "The Crystal Cabinet"; "Auguries"

    - the writer should identify the different institutions from which Blake felt oppressed (religion/church, government/state, monarchy/royalty, slavery, state-class, sexual expression, colonialism