William Blake (1757–1827)
English poet and artist. The son of a London haberdasher, Blake first studied drawing at age ten and apprenticed with an engraver at fourteen. As a young man he established a printing shop in London, where he engraved and printed his second volume of poems, Songs of Innocence (1789). Blake’s poems and illuminations reflect an independent spirit seeking freedom from repression; they take their inspiration from nature and religion, both being transformed into a deeply personal and unorthodox vision. His major works include The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793), Songs of Experience (1794), The Four Zoas (1803), Milton (1804), and Jerusalem (1809). Although Blake died impoverished and obscure, he is now seen as one of the great English Romantic poets. See also poets.org.