Students from both Upper Sixth Literature groups and MRC visited the Tate Britain this week, armed with their Romantic poetry anthologies and an extensive knowledge of the Sublime.
While it may seem an odd choice of venue for an English Literature trip, we were there to see a landmark exhibition of works by William Blake - perhaps best known at Felsted for writing the words to what is now known as ‘Jerusalem’. Blake (1757-1827) is one of the poets we are studying as part of our A Level course.
As the exhibition showed, he was actually a man of many talents, working actively as a poet, painter, printmaker and engraver. The exhibition was magnificent, with more than 300 works on display - making it the largest show of his work in over twenty years.
Although his work went largely unrecognised and praised during his lifetime, we had the chance to consider some of Blake’s most seminal art and poetry as we strolled at leisure through the hushed halls of the exhibition rooms.
It was intriguing from the moment we walked through the door, as we were instantly confronted with the nude figure of Albion rising in glory, his arms outstretched and luminous colour radiating from his sashaying body.
Who exactly was this man? Did he represent England, as initially described in our pint-sized handbooks, or was he perhaps a greater personification of freedom and independence, or a representation of Blake’s illustrious imagination? We soon found ourselves drawing comparisons between Blake’s independent etchings and the poems in our anthologies such as London and Holy Thursday.
Much like his poems, Blake’s engravings eloquently stated his feelings about the subject matter. His images seemed to capture a snapshot of the social and economic injustices endured in urban areas during his time, but were obviously also concerned with a more divine focus. They added to our understanding of him as a mystic figure but also as political poet.
Charlotte Perry, Year 13