William Blake first came to me in third year university English, and I was utterly amazed. It was 1969 and so much was happening that we talk about and here was this ancient philosopher who by his nature would be walking today against any war and the system as it was abusing the common man. That was Blake, and yet he spoke, created, crafted his expressions to humanity in ways that he is recognized as one of the greatest English creative minds ever. Tiger, tiger, burning bright…did He Who made the lamb make Thee?
The genius and simple mad great nature in William Blake was there in a study in fourth year tutorial about how Blake and his thoughts were carried forward from his lifetime (1757-1827) that saw him through the worst horrors of the Industrial Revolution when children were virtually chained to tables to produce mass goods, practices we now denounce through the third world, but have really been around since time immemorial.
But when Blake described the naked reality of a small boy stuck in a chimney and abandoned by his chimney sweep because he had had a growth spurt or eaten too much, greedy boy. In the time of the American revolution, while Colonists were fighting against taxation without representation, Blake was speaking of children chained to their wheels or abandoned in a sooty chimney until his cries died down, and the fires burned out his skeletal remains. His soot would filter out over the neighbors for some time, and then be forgotten, an abandoned orphan anyway.
So while mad William Blake stoke the fires of indignation, which set the way for another victim of the rough life of a father who was too much a borrower and so came to know the Poor House, Charles Dickens. And all those words of horror and indignation from the heart of Dickens pushed a change that had already begun, and a life of decency became a standard for all. It took mad William Blake, who said in his later years: the first thing is:
You work up your imagination, and allow it to become a vision, and then the thing is done.
The Wise Men from the East could not have said it better.