(Original post by christacrisp)
Sorry about the late reply, this is one which got an A* (the only one I might add so far ),so thought this would be the most useful to show you, hope it helps!
Explore the presentation of and the attitudes towards desire in Blake’s poetry
Blake explores different attitudes towards sex in his poetry however his own personal stance on sex follows one theme. This is the theme of sex as liberation, and peoples right to have sex with whom ever they may please since it is a natural God-given desire. Despite the conventions of his time, Blake takes an astonishingly liberal attitude towards sexuality and this can be seen throughout his poetry. Often using metaphors of nature to explore sexuality and the repression of it. This can be seen in Blake’s poem Ah! Sun-Flower, The Lily and My Pretty Rose Tree.
In Ah! Sun-Flower, the sun-flower can be seen as a metaphor for sexuality. The bright and fruitful connotations of a sun-flower suggest a positive attitude towards sex whereas ‘the pale virgin shrouded in snow’ suggests infertility and a lack of positive growth. In this poem, the sun can be seen to represent sexual desire, and as the sun-flower reaches towards the sun, and so follows its desire, it grows and prospers. The ‘pale virgin’ is an important image because it relates the popular fashion of pale skin in the 18th century, which showed that you were wealthy, and remained always inside. However the sun-flower, who by its nature is always outside, shows a sense of exploration and a break from conformity and fashion. Desire is, as the poem says ‘the traveller’s journey’, likening sex to exploration and learning and so suggesting that there is more to sex than the physical connotations.
The ‘sweet golden clime’ also suggests that sexuality is an experience to enjoy. The word ‘clime’ shows that it is not about instantaneous gratification but the experience of love and lust. The word ‘golden’ here shows how sexuality can lead to prosperity, though not a material prosperity. The sun-flower as a metaphor also suggests this because sunflowers produce a wealth of seeds and are therefore considered to be fruitful, this contrasts to the repression of sexuality, which has connotations with death.
Blake uses cold imagery to depict the repression of sexuality compared with the bright imagery used to depict free sexuality. This is in the form of the ‘pale Virgin shrouded in snow’ who ‘arise from their graves’. This goes to say that by repressing sexuality you repress a form of life, and restrict life to the extent that you loose your vitality. The line ‘Arise from their graves, and aspire, Where my Sun-flower wishes to go’ suggests that by embracing sexuality you embrace life. Despite the conventions of his age, where repression of sexuality and virtue were valued, Blake says the opposite, and even goes so far as to say that repression of sexuality can lead to aggressiveness and anger.
This is illustrated in Blake’s poem, ‘The Lilly’. ‘The modest Rose puts forth a thorn’ shows how in virtue we become not purer, but more vicious and protective. This is shown by the harsh syllable sounds of ‘thorn’ and ‘horn’, which blemish the otherwise beautiful Rose and innocent ‘Sheep’. Here, repression of sexuality is further illustrated by a ‘stain’ or a ‘threat’, and so says that the repression of sexuality is un-natural, like a ‘stain’, it is added or a human mistake.
In giving ‘Love’ a capital letter, it states its power and presence in the poem and therefore it’s importance. Love therefore, like God (in Blake’s belief) is in us all and should be embraced. By directly associating love and lust, lust then becomes more pure. The trochaic metre of the first two lines creates a monotonous and ominous tone that illustrates the harshness and aggression of a life without sexuality, but when Blake moves on to talk about the ‘Lilly’ who in ‘love delight[s]’ the rhythm changes to an anapaestic metre, showing the spontaneity of lust by creating a freer and more positive rhythm. Whilst this poem explores positive connotations of free sexuality, Blake’s poem ‘My Pretty Rose Tree’ explores another aspect.
‘My Pretty Rose Tree’ , unlike the other poems approaches the subject of fidelity and monogamy. The ‘flower’ here represents a sexual advancement. Since it is only one flower, it has negative connotations compared with the ‘Rose tree’ since it suggests that it is plucked and some day will wither. It also suggests that the flower, being only one, offers only an aspect of sexuality, however the fuller ‘Rose tree’ shows how sexuality is far more complex than the simple exchange of physical love. The metaphor of the tree suggests an aspect of nurture and care that a flower does not need. The anapaestic trimeter of this poem would suggest a gentle and carefree attitude towards sexuality but could also have connotations of stability, since the rhythm is consistent, bar one line. There is however a negative aspect within this poem. This poem explores the negative emotions related to the exploration of sexuality, whereby, it encourages jealously. The persona, who turns down the advancement with kindness, to tend to his Rose tree ‘by day and by night’ is met with jealously, and although we can see the strength of his affection by the line ‘And her thorns were her only delight’, he is still scorned, and so in search of any human emotion clings to the ‘thorns’. This shows a negative aspect of free sexuality in that it in itself can cause problems however, generally, Blake feels positively about this notion of open sexuality.
In all three poems, Blake uses nature as a metaphor for sexuality. By using flowers he gives positive and beautiful connotations to sex. The use of nature goes to show that free sexuality is a natural human aspect and so should be embraced as such. We see in each poem how the repression of sexuality can have negative connotations such as aggression. Generally, sex in Blake’s poems can be seen as something positive and natural, compared with the negativity of repression.