Read his poem "The Tyger"
Career: Poet, engraver, printer, and artist
Born in London on November 28, 1757, Blake was the second of the five children of James and Catherine Blake. Unlike many well-known writers of his day, Blake was born into a family of moderate means. His father was a seller of stockings, gloves, and other apparel. Though he had no formal schooling as a child, Blake was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to engraver James Basire. In 1779 he began studies at The Royal Academy of Arts, but it was as a journeyman engraver that he was to make his living. In 1782 Blake married Catherine Boucher, the illiterate daughter of a vegetable grower. Blake taught her to read and write, and under his tutoring she also became an accomplished draftsman, helping him with the execution of his designs. Throughout his life, booksellers employed Blake to engrave illustrations for a wide variety of publications. This work brought him into contact with many of the radical thinkers of his day, including bookseller Joseph Johnson and fellow artists John Flaxman and Henry Fuseli. Blake drew literary notice at gatherings in the home of the Reverend and Mrs. A. S. Mathew, where he read his poems and occasionally sang to them his own music. In 1783 Flaxman and Mrs. Mathew funded the printing of Poetical Sketches, Blake's first collection of verse. Around this time Blake also developed his technique of illuminated printing. His method was to produce the text and illustrations for his books on copper plates, which were then used to print on paper. Final copies of the work were individually colored by hand. This laborious process restricted the number of copies Blake could produce, thus limiting both his income and the spread of his reputation.
At the time of the French Revolution in 1789 Blake was acquainted with a political circle that included such well-known radicals as William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Paine, and the democratic revolutions in America and France became major themes in much of Blake's poetry. In 1790 Blake and his wife moved to Lambeth, where Blake began developing his own symbolic and literary mythology, which used highly personal images and metaphors to convey his interpretation of history and vision of the universe. This mythology is expressed in such works as The First Book of Urizen (1794) and The Song of Los (1795). During this time Blake also wrote the poems included in Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794). Very little of Blake's poetry of the 1790s was known to the general public, though he continued to work as an engraver and illustrator.
From 1800 to 1803, Blake and his wife lived at the seaside village of Felpham before moving back to London. Upon his return to London, Blake was met with accusations that he had uttered seditious sentiments while expelling a soldier from his garden at Felpham. He was tried for sedition and acquitted in 1804. In 1809 Blake mounted an exhibition of his paintings which he hoped would publicize his work and help to vindicate his visionary aesthetic. The exhibition caused some interest among the London literati, but was otherwise poorly attended. Blake's later years were distinguished by his completion of Jerusalem, his last and longest prophetic book, and by his work on a series of illustrations for the Book of Job, which is now widely regarded as his greatest artistic achievement. The latter work was commissioned in the early 1820s by John Linnell, one of a group of young artists calling themselves "The Ancients" who gathered around Blake and helped support him in his old age. Blake died in 1827.
Source: Exploring Poetry, Gale.