William Blake and Henry Lawson! What an amazing feast to have these two radically different authors on my teaching diet this week. Lawson so earthed, so in touch with the immediate feelings and aspirations of his bedevilled Australian characters, Blake so in touch with the cosmic import with the contrary living forces around him, for example the tyger and the lamb. Yet both authors produce in me a sense of the creative human spirit engaging with what really matters in human existence. Lawson in "Brighten’s Sister in Law" captures powerfully the fears, doubts and desperate hopes of a young man facing the imminent death of his own child and then uncovers this amazing strength in the woman who saves both the child and the parents from their own fears and dysfunction. Lawson’s compassion into others allowed him to detect human sources of strength that we all need to survive in a complex world. And Blake challenges us to understand much more deeply the nature of the contrary forces in and around us: how are all these things a necessary part of the universe we inhabit and that inhabits us. We had some excellent discussions about the way "The Lamb" in Songs of Innocence and "The Tyger" in Songs of Experience were in fact complementary views of the world and of human nature itself.
Here are some suggestions for Creative and Critical Work for both Henry Lawson and William Blake.
In “Middleton’s Rouseabout“ Lawson characterizes what for him is a typical Aussie. Can you write a short sketch -either as a poem or as short descriptive paragraph- that captures your sense of the the typical contemporary Aussie?
In ”Brighten’s Sister in Law“ Lawson captures the fear and terror faced by a father in the face of the imminent death of his only child. Try to capture in your own words an experience which has produced a similar state of fear and terror.
Write a short appraisal of what it is about Lawson’s writing that still makes him relevant to readers in the 21st century. Imagine you are writing this appraisal for a popular journal in which you are trying to encourage readers to read Lawson.
Which of Lawson’s writings did you most enjoy and why?
We discussed the ways in which “Home is where the heART is” reflects the continuing application of Blake’s ideas in the contemporary world. Do you have any examples of where Blake’s ideas are either relevant to your own life or to aspects of society that you see around you?
The prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament foresees a time when “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.( Isaiah 11: 6). The lion and the lamb are also brought together in the New Testament in Revelations 5:5-6 (and elsewhere) Much ink has been spilt over the relationship between lion and lamb – these two opposite forces- in the Bible.
What does Blake make of the relationship of these two forces? Are they diametrically opposed to each other? Are they the necessary two sides of a complex creation? What were some of the thoughts these two poems inspired in you?
Write a poem or a short prose piece in which you present stark opposites.
Incidentally did you know that a Rouseabout could also be female:
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