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Monday, October 6th, 2008

Time Event
10:54p
A quick one ...
I've gotten quite backed up on doing reviews (I've got a half-dozen books waiting here) so I figured I'd jump ahead in the pile to hit a "not much to say about it" volume, and blow through the review quickly here. As is frequently the case when Dover Thrift Editions show up in my reading pile, I had run across a book that I wanted on Amazon, and needed to "pad" the total to get up to the promised land of free shipping, so picked up a few of these remarkably inexpensive (the cover price on this is a mere $2.00!) titles.

William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience are classic English Major fare (heck, they may even still be being taught in highschool), and are likely to be familiar, at least in highlights, to most everybody.

Blake, of course, was by trade an engraver, and I must admit that these lose something when removed from their original graphic settings. Most (if not all, I'm not sure) of these would have been set within one of Blake's "visions", and play off themes between the words and images. The first book of this, Songs of Innocence, came out as a free-standing work, only to be countered five years later by Songs of Experience, which, while not exactly mirroring the earlier book, offers a darker turn of many of the same subjects, many of which share titles.

One of Blake's best remembered poems, "The Tyger" (Tyger, Tyger, burning bright / in the forests of the night / what immortal hand or eye / could frame thy fearful symmetry?) is the true gem here, and is clearly the strongest poem of the lot. Of course, it is easy enough to cast aspersions on Blake's rhyme schemes some 350 years down the road (did some of these words actually rhyme back then: woe/too, gone/moan, dark/work, shade/head, stood/view'd, heck, eye/symmetry?), but to the modern ear, many of these sound quite forced. From a recent biography I'd read of Blake, many of these could well have been set to popular airs of the day, and so may have the added disconnect of being, in a sense, lyrics that would have no doubt benefited from having the reader be familiar with the tune!

Anyway, a collection like this is always handy to have in one's library ... and the inexpensive nature of the book ($2.00 cover), makes it ideal for getting book orders up into the free shipping zone. While this is in print, I suspect that it would be a "hard sell" to convince one's local brick-and-mortar store to order one in, so this is best to be put on one's "add in" list for the next Amazon or B&N web order!


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