The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

August 12, 2016

August 12, 1827

William Blake (November 28, 1757  to August 12,  1827) returned to the tiger trope more often than may be recalled. The tiger invokes for Blake the ability to seize reality, rather than a world mediated by cerebral partitioning. When Blake says The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction,” by the word "wrath", he combines seeing with seizing as opposed to some mediated response to the world.

The tygerish ability to see reality, the mystic's portion, has resulted in questions about his sanity from the start of his career, to the present day. A recent review of Blake criticism corrals the opinions of his contemporaries:

Blake had been mocked in a notorious obituary in Leigh Hunt’s liberal newspaper the Examiner as “an unfortunate lunatic.” Both Wordsworth and Southey thought Blake was “perfectly mad,” and even Coleridge—who was exceptional in having read the Songs... thought Blake was gifted but deeply eccentric. The author of “Kubla Khan” wrote: “You perhaps smile at my calling another poet a mystic; but verily I am in the very mire of commonplace common sense compared with Mr Blake, apo- or rather ana-calyptic poet and painter.”

Blake with his consistent and seamless moving from the outsiders' perception to a dense poetic transcription of what he sees may not be the best illustration of this point but in fact what artists and commentators overlook in their discussions of the mental health of artists, is that a zen discipline can balance out the chaotic effects such poetic enthusiasm sometimes bring in its wake.

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