William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Books

by William Blake

William Blake’s so-called ‘illuminated books’ demonstrate the power of imagination like no other. An imagination deeply rooted in the earth, but at the same time reaching for the heavens. It is as if Blake wanted to imagine eternal truths about life in every poem or drawing.

The world of imagination is a world of infinite possibilities and potential; it therefore is the realm of the Creator. In his epic poem Jerusalem

included in this book—Blake explicitly placed his imagination in “the bosom of God”.

For him, the world of imagination was a place of inspiration and vision, where he could work with the poetic genius and spirit of prophesy that he deemed responsible for all religions.

Unorthodox as he was, Blake of course had to create his own personal mythology, with his own pantheon of god-like figures. These mythic characters portray driving aspects of the self on a collective scale. They represent mental states and psychic forces Blake knew all too well from his personal life, such as Los, the spirit of the creative will; Urizen, the tyrant of controlling reason; or Orc, the demon of rebellion, as Blake lived in revolutionary times. 

Notwithstanding all their Blakean characteristics, these mythic figures are universal at the same time—therein lies the artist’s genius. The personal struggle and grace one sees reflected in his work, is the eternal struggle and grace of life.

Blake’s imagination is visionary, and his poetic genius ensures his work will stay relevant.