Good old William Blake. If the vision-seeing, prophetic poetry writing, mildly bonkers poet and artist were still alive today, he would be a mighty 255-years-old.

Human biology being what it is, he's not. But we're still taking the opportunity to celebrate Blake's pivotal role in defining the Romantic Age and being latterly seen as one of Britain's most important artists.

Blake was deemed mad by his contemporaries for his unusual views on sex (he was perhaps the first proponent of free love), religion and politics, but has subsequently been upheld as a visionary.

william blake This looks like a party to us: William Blake's interpretation of A Midsummer Night's Dream


As well as writing dozens of poems, Blake brought Britain the hymn 'Jerusalem' and popular rhyme 'Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright'. He was also a prolific artist, illustrating his poems as well as Dante's Inferno, resulting in a number of creative visions of Hell.

And for his birthday celebrations? We'll be following one of Blake's finest pieces of advice: "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom."

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  • The Ghost of a Flea, 1819–1820

    "To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour."

  • Newton, 1795

    "It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend."

  • The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve, c. 1825

    "Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night."

  • Ancient of Days

    "The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship."

  • The Lovers' Whirlwind illustrates Hell in Canto V of Dante's Inferno

    "Do what you will, this world's a fiction and is made up of contradiction."

  • Minotaur to illustrate Inferno, Canto XII,12–28, The Minotaur XI

    "A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees."

  • The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with Sun (1805)

    "Better murder an infant in its cradle than nurse an unacted desire."

  • The Night of Enitharmon's Joy, 1795

    "Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed."

  • Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. From William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

    "Exuberance is beauty."

  • Plate from The Song of Los

    "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom."