̀Loud inspir'd by liberty' : the development of William Blake's notions of law and freedom in prophecy and myth


Chevalier, Noel, 1963-




The following is an examination of Blake's ideas of Nature, Law, and Liberty, and how these ideas developed during the course of his writing life. I argue that as Blake's understanding of these ideas changed, so did the form and scope of his poetry. By abandoning the idea that the poetry forms a clear, consistent canon of material, and by removing such terms as 'mystic' and 'prophet' to describe the poet himself, I also argue that one can trace the major changes in his ideas of Nature, Law, and Liberty in the Illuminated Books.

The first chapter establishes Blake's basic definitions of Nature, Law and Liberty, and compares them with the Natural Philosophers, particularly Rousseau. The second chapter covers the years between 1790 and 1794, and discusses 'The French Revolution', 'A Song of Liberty', and America, as 'prophecies', Blake's term for political poetry. Chapter Three distinguishes prophecy from myth, and shows how Blake tried to consolidate his ideas into one epic poem, Vala. It also discusses The Book of Urizen, as a first draft of that myth. Chapter Four discusses Jerusalem as an attempt to rework the myth into a Christian context and also shows how Blake's ideas became governed by the form of the poetry. Finally, I include a brief discussion of 'The Everlasting Gospel', as an example of how Blake tried, after Jerusalem, to reestablish his old definitions of Law and Liberty to the figure of Jesus. This also serves as a recapitulation of the themes previously discussed.


Blake, William, 1757-1827 -- Criticism and interpretation
Blake, William, 1757-1827 -- Philosophy
Prophecy In Literature
Myth In Literature




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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