Blake's twelve illustrations for L'Allegro and Il Penseroso constitute a vigorous critical interpretation of Milton's twin lyrics. Completed after Blake had made most of his other Milton illustrations, this set of designs is the first to depict Milton extensively and presents Blake's judgment both of the poems and of the poet. Blake visually associates the poet of L'Allegro with the material, physical world of experience and with the inferior, conventionalized poetry of the merely average versifier. He associates the poet of Il Penseroso with the imaginatively superior world of higher innocence and directly with the poetic genius of Milton. The designs for Il Penseroso develop Blake's assessment of Milton's ascent into this higher state, the apotheosis of which appears in the prophetic Milton of the final design. Blake reveals the vast difference between the “young poet” and Milton most clearly in his depictions of each poet's dream, each of which reflects the individual poet's mental and physical state, the former conventional and restricted, the latter imaginatively free.

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