English Language and Literature ETDs

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This study takes seriously the claim made by William Blake in his epic poem Milton that the model for his art was the Bible, especially the works of those "more ancient & consciously & professedly inspired Men," the Hebrew prophets. Through an examination of circumstances surrounding the composition of Blake's "first Vision of Light," and through analysis of the poem itself, it is shown not only that Blake was acquainted with certain conventional patterns and formulae from the biblical prophetic tradition, but also that he drew upon his knowledge of such strategies in this short poem enclosed in a letter to Thomas Butts and evidently describing an actual experience of his own. The "first Vision of Light" experience seems indeed to have strengthened the identification made by Blake very early in his career between his role as a creative artist and the role of the ancient prophets of Israel, for the primary images used by Blake in the poetic description of his "first Vision of Light'' appear in and radically affect the content of his later work, including Milton. Blake's manner of adapting and transforming biblical images and themes in the Bard's Song in Milton receives extended discussion, and it is argued, finally, that Blake may have modeled Milton directly upon the prophecy of Second Isaiah. The first six plates of Milton are shown to recapitulate almost all of the maJor themes and images of Second Isaiah's opening chapter, and numerous striking similarities are pointed out between Blake's portrait of Milton and the portrait of the Servant as drawn in Second Isaiah.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Jane Kopp

Second Committee Member

Morris Eaves

Third Committee Member

Edith Buchnan



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