Though Blake made sexual freedom central to his idea of liberation from an early date, his sexual attitudes seem initially to have been conventionally male-centered. If unusual even in the Songs and Visions in his empathy for female sexual desire, Blake nonetheless imagined this desire brought to ripeness by male attention and, frequently, male aggression. And he shared his age’s prejudices against “nonprolific” sexuality, including masturbation and, in part, homosexuality. Blake differed from the current of his time, however—even the radical 1790s—in the depth of his radicalism, both sexual and political. A poem like “A Little Girl Lost,” for example, shares its theme of inderdicted sexuality with a dramatic narrative such as Wordsworth’s Vaudracour and Julia (Prelude, 1805–1806, 9:555–934); it is even superficially less radical, as it does not include the element of aristocratic tyranny. What sets “Little Girl” apart is, first, its emphasis on sexual delight in and for itself and, second, its sense of the utter incompatibility of this delight with the present world, embodied in the father, whom Blake can treat sympathetically without compromising his own radicalism precisely because he knows the unashamed pleasure he has in mind can be enjoyed only in “the future Age.” Allied with the awareness of ruling-class self-righteousness found (in a nonsexual context) in the sister poem, “A Little Boy Lost,” this sense of sexual delight as the essence of a freedom impossible in present society sets Blake on a course of suspicion toward every kind of sexual restraint and hatred of all moral punishment, despite his initial narrowness of perspective.
KeywordsSexual Freedom Woman Writer Unite Front Male Homosexuality Moral Transgression
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