Discuss The Differing Responses Of Blake And Wordsworth To The Cult Of Reason

2488 words - 10 pages

Discuss the differing responses of Blake and Wordsworth to the Cult of Reason.In order that we may fully grasp the politics, or more importantly, the ethics of poets in the Romantic period, it is necessary that the contemporary reader gain some understanding not only of the time in which these poets wrote, but also of the period which immediately preceded it, the century of lights, or the Enlightenment, a period not only of critical importance for the notions of nature, science and reason which were widely embraced and explored during the 18th Century, but also for its culmination in France of mass murder and persecution and ultimately terminating in Military dictatorship under Napoleon. For ...view middle of the document...

In 1792, after the September massacres, many churches were ransacked and transformed into Temples of Reason, with the cult itself beginning the following year initially in areas of France such as Lyon and Arras (where Wordsworth mentions in The Prelude), and eventually making its way to Paris. The cult worshipped the Goddess of Reason, all Catholic churches were closed in November of that year. Replaced the following year by the cult of the supreme being by Robespierre, a deist, the cult of reason was nonetheless important in its symbolism as ideology gone too far, becoming totalitarian in nature. For Wordsworth and Blake, who both wrote during and after the advent of the Cult of Reason, it marks an interesting change in the politics of the writers, whose early poetry supports the revolution.Both Wordsworth and Blake were initially supporters of the French Revolution in 1789, indeed it is interesting that Blake's Songs of Innocence was published first in that year, with Songs of Experience appearing for the first time in 1793, after the Terror. There are many ways in which to interpret Blake's poetry and this discussion does not seek to revolutionise the analysis of his poetry in any way, but rather to position the reader to consider the notion that Blake's The Tyger may have been written with the backdrop of the French Revolution being considered. Let us examine the poem itself:Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare seize the fire?And what shoulder, & what art. Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet?What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp?When the stars threw down their spears, And watered heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?Firstly, we shall examine the form of the poem. Six four line stanzas constitute The Tyger. Each line contains between six and eight syllables, with the majority containing seven within which the use of stressed and unstressed syllables is alternated, with the last syllable of each line breaking this trend and finishing with a stressed syllable. In the following example, the stressed syllables are in bold: "Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright". The use of rhyming couplets throughout the poem gives the poem momentum and therefore makes each stanza sit well with the last, fulfilling for the reader their rhythmic expectations. The use of these components gives the feeling the piece is a chant or a song.The meaning in this poem is a matter of some contention among scholars. Blake is a rather elusive poet in his meaning and it...

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