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The Complete Poems (Penguin Classics)

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140422153
ISBN-10: 0140422153
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  • The Complete Poems (Penguin Classics)
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Editorial Reviews


"Blake is for strong minds...but not to have read him is to have missed one of the most rewarding experiences in English literature; and this is by far the best book to read him in."                                                                                                                         Victor Price, BBC

"All in all, the Stevenson text surpasses its predecessors in its lucid comprehensibility and should win a wide number of readers."                                                                      Times Literary Supplement

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

William Blake (1757-1827) is one of the great figures in literature, by turns poet, artist and visionary. Profoundly libertarian in outlook, Blake's engagement with the issues of his day is well known and this - along with his own idiosyncratic concerns - flows through his poetry and his art. Like Milton before him, the prodigality of his allusions and references is little short of astonishing. Consequently, his longer visionary  poems can challenge the modern reader, who will find in this avowedly open edition all they might need to interpret the poetry.

W. H. Stevenson's Blake is a masterpiece of scrupulous scholarship. It is, as the editor makes clear in his introduction, 'designed to be widely, and fluently, read' and this Third Edition incorporates many changes to further that aim. Many of the headnotes have been rewritten and the footnotes updated. The full texts of the early prose tracts, All Religions are One and There is No Natural Religion, are included for the first time. In many instances, Blake's capitalisation has been restored, better to convey the expressive individuality of his writing. In addition, a full colour plate section contains a representation of Blake's most significant paintings and designs. As the 250th anniversary of his birth approaches, Blake has perhaps more readers than ever before; Blake: The Complete Poems will stand those readers, new and old, in good stead for many years to come.

W. H. Stevenson worked on the first edition while Professor of English at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, where he also conducted the only known performance in Nigeria of Donizetti's opera, 'l'elisir d'amore'. Later he was Full Professor at Boston University, USA, and head of the Department of English at Calabar, Nigeria. He has also taught at Leeds and Edinburgh Universities.


--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 1072 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (March 30, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140422153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140422153
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Though I firmly support the general consensus that Shakespeare is our greatest poet--the more one reads, the more this becomes apparent--I am equally firm in stating that there has been no greater visionary poet than Blake, not even Milton.

William Blake lived and wrote almost entirely ignored during his time, regarded, if at all, as an eccentric painter. This speaks not to the quality of his works; it speaks to how ahead of his time he was. Nobody knew what to make of him, and I must confess that even now it is difficult to cement his place.

One can say for certain, however, that he is one of the greatest poets; aside from the Bard, Keats (whom I adore), and Milton, he has no companions in this uppermost echelon. Reading Blake is sometimes overwhelming. The power of his vision and the vivacity of his language sometimes overpower the faculties, and makes one nearly break down into tears. His poetry is beautiful; it is complex; it is at times incomparably deep and more powerful in force of language than perhaps any other, even Shakespeare's.

Many restrict their reading of Blake to his accessible and delightful lyrics SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND OF EXPERIENCE (which must be read side-by-side to fully appreciate what he is doing!), but to do so is to bind oneself in a nutshell. Read THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL, as an introduction into his vast vision. Go on to read THE BOOK OF URIZEN, MILTON, JERUSALEM, etc., but take it slowly. Blake is one of the most difficult poets; he is infinitely complex. He creates his own, metamorphosing mythology, which parallels Biblical mythology and that of Milton, and expounds it throughout his poems. To fully appreciate them, one must not only read, but also study his works.
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Format: Paperback
I don't know upon what planet this poet was born, but it certainly wasn't earth. Blake is the ultimate Gnostic, the ascendent correspondent, the bringer of truth from regions we have no knowledge of. The core of his philosophy can be summed up in his assertion in "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:" Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast...Isaiah answer'd. I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception; but my senses discover'd the infinite in every thing, and as I was then perswaded, & remain confirm'd; that the voice of honest indignation is the voice of God."
Blake is the poet of true revolution, true Romanticism and true spirit. This is the definitive volume of his life-work, without, it is true, the illustrations that augmented his genius. Yet there is no real necessity for etchings here, as the genius of his poetry will etch its own image in your mind if you are receptive to his universal symbolism. Blake was the first truly modern poet, prefiguring Mallarme, D.H. Lawrence, Baudelaire, in particular. He was also a great mythologyzer, the precursor of Campbell, Frazier, and even Alan Watts in many respects. The Penguin Edition is not illustrated, it's true, but there is so much to be mined here that one can easily lose oneself in the labyrinth of Blake's excavations.
Recommended without reservations. A truly paradigm shifting poet and artist. Seek out his illustrative, divinely inspired watercolors, as well. A true visionary, if there ever was one!!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Penguin Complete Blake is by far the best edition for those who want to know how Blake works and what he was driving at in his so-called Prophetic Books, like MILTON and JERUSALEM. Other annotated editions, for example Harold Bloom's, are over-influenced by the editor's own opinions and sometimes refuse to explain the simplest things, like who the characters are or what Blake means by such terms as "spectre."

Penguin covers it all, with as good a character listing as the famous BLAKE DICTIONARY's, and excellent notes keyed to the text so the reader knows what's happening as the prophetic poems go along. No other Blake collection gives so much, or so useful, help. In fact, there's nothing else like this Blake out there for helping the reader.

Other reviewers have complained that Penguin lacks color plates. True enough, and some of the far more expensive color plate editions have good notes, but nothing like as good as Penguin's.

Blake writes in a dreamlike style, and it is impossible to make total sense of him, but more than a century of scholarship has gone into clarifying his work, and he needs every annotation he gets here. An unparalleled great edition.
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Format: Paperback
It is the shorter poetry of Blake, that of the 'Songs of Innocence' and 'The Songs of Experience' that lives for me, and I suspect for most others. Though Northrop Frye the master literary critic saw in Blake's longer poems a key to reading the whole universe of Literature, I strongly suspect those long- lined abstraction filled 'visions'are outside the interest and staying power of most readers.

Blake was one of the great aphoristic poets, and along with the mystical visionary lines, there came lines like lightning sudden flashes of the mind which strike us strongly and remain with us.

Here is one of the most well- known Blakean lyrics


And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England's mountains green?

And was the holy Lamb of God

On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here

Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!

Bring me my arrows of desire!

Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,

Till we have built Jerusalem

In England's green and pleasant land.

Blake was the lunatic lover one of the great madmen of poetry who according to his wife gave her little time as he most of the time was 'in Paradise'.

Each reader will going through the Collected Poems stop and select what they find congenial for themselves.
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