Common Features of Blake’s Poems


Blake repeatedly uses a number of the same motifs and features in his poems, here are some of the things that you can keep an eye out for:


·             Lack of colour (in cities / places of experience) contrasted with the rich colours of nature. This lack of colour is partly literal as soot from the increasingly industrialized cities is covering the landscape; it is also metaphorical in the sense that these are ‘dark times’ for humanity as we have lost our freedom and creativity.

·             Lack of sunshine or daylight: many poems are set at night

·             Coldness and Winter in contrast to warmth, comfort and Spring

·             Contrasts between city settings and natural locations

·             Images of barrenness instead of fertility

·             References to crying, particularly from babies / young children

·             References to songs which often represent freedom, creativity and life

·             Question and answer format: this is childish but also a good way to argue a case

·             Seemingly simple rhyme schemes, structures and content. However, this simplicity contrasts with the incredible complexity created by the fact that many words are ambiguous and can be interpreted in a number of ways

·             Authority figures, particularly religious or parental, often malicious or malevolent

·             Up vs. down contrasts – sitting / standing / kneeling / heaven / hell / rising up / falling down

·             Movements such as walking and flowing which may represent freedom in contrast to a lack of movement



Remember, don’t just point out that something is a common feature! You must say what effect it is having in the poem that you are talking about. Be careful, however, because features do not always do the job that you expect them to: for example the ‘youthful Harlot’ in ‘London’ is not a good character despite her youthfulness.