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Lambeth in William Blake’s The Garden of Love Essay

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William Blake’s “The Garden of Love” was first published in book two of Blake’s famous work, Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. The first book in this series, The Songs of Innocence, deals with simplistic themes and a benevolent God. In 1794’s The Songs of Experience, however, Blake portrays the other, darker side of the human soul and a tyrannous God of repression. Blake’s use of vivid imagery and contradiction in “The Garden of Love” is intriguing especially when considering the historical and biographical contexts in which the work was composed.



Many Romantic works come from both the poet’s individual perceptions as well as the social consciousness of that era. “The Garden of Love” is no exception. This poem functions to brutally satirize both the oppression of the Church, which had a societal impact, and the urbanization of Lambeth, which had a personal impact on Blake’s life. As Blake has been known to do, he utilizes contrast to make the decay of his world blatant to the reader. Such contrasting is visible when the image of a life-giving garden decays into an image of death. This parallels the events that took place in Blake’s own life, when his rural home became swallowed up by urban sprawl.



This particular poem was written in 1793, shortly after Blake and his wife moved out of London to a house in an area known as Lambeth Marsh on the Thames River. This new home was surrounded by a large garden and rested in a relatively new development known as Hercules Buildings. Blake and his wife had relocated to Lambeth possibly because of its rural appearance, and Blake considered it to be his own Garden of Eden (Ackroyd 128). In “The Garden of Lo...


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...caying under the shadow of the Church. “The Garden of Love” deals with Blake’s corner of a society that he feels is headed in the wrong direction. By exhibiting the way in which he personally has been affected by the oppressive nature of the Church, Blake represents the loss of liberty in a society that he feels is becoming bound by briars.





Works Cited

Ackroyd, Peter. Blake. New York: Ballantine, 1995.

Blake, William. “The Garden of Love.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature.

Vol. 2. Ed. M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. 7th ed. New York: Norton, 2000. 56.

Reinhart, Charles. “William Blake (1757-1827).” Dictionary of Literary Biography 93:

British Romantic Poets, 1789-1832. Ed. John Greenfield. New York: Gale, 1990. 14-56.

Schorer, Mark. William Blake: The Politics of Vision. New York: Vintage, 1959.


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