'Several Questions Answered' by William Blake

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Wright, David.English Romantic Verse.England:Penguin Books, 1968.What is it men in women do require?
The lineaments of Gratified Desire.
What is it women do in men require?
The lineaments of Gratified Desire.The look of love alarms
Because 'tis fill'd with fire;
But the look of soft deceit
Shall Win the lover's hire.Soft Deceit & Idleness,
These are Beauty's sweetest dress.He who binds to himself a joy
Dot the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity's sunrise.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Several Questions Answered by William Blake

When it comes to the world of poetry, there are few names as revered and celebrated as William Blake. One of his most famous works, Several Questions Answered, is a true masterpiece of poetic expression, one that has resonated with readers across generations.

But what exactly is it about this poem that makes it so special? What themes does it explore, and what insights does it offer into the human experience? In this literary criticism and interpretation, we'll dive deep into the heart of Several Questions Answered, exploring its many layers of meaning and uncovering the brilliance that lies within.

Overview of the Poem

First things first, let's take a look at the poem itself. Several Questions Answered is a relatively short work, consisting of just four stanzas. Here's the full text of the poem:

What is it men in women do require? The lineaments of Gratified Desire. What is it women do in men require? The lineaments of Gratified Desire.

The look of love alarms, Because tis fill'd with fire; But the look of soft deceit Shall bind the husband's feet.

Wash your hands of that filthy song, And wipe away that lewd, licentious tongue. Women of softer mould, Forgiveness find in woes; As ivy climbs along the mould' And there the violet grows.

What is it men in women do require? The lineaments of Gratified Desire. What is it women do in men require? The lineaments of Gratified Desire.

At first glance, the poem may seem simple and straightforward. It consists of a series of questions and answers, exploring the different desires and expectations that men and women have of each other. But as we'll see, there's much more going on beneath the surface.

Exploring the Themes

One of the most striking things about Several Questions Answered is the way it explores themes of gender and desire. The poem presents a series of dichotomies between men and women, exploring the different things that each gender seeks from the other.

For men, the poem suggests, desire is primarily focused on physical beauty and gratification. They seek "the lineaments of Gratified Desire," or the physical attributes that bring them pleasure. Women, on the other hand, are more complex. They too seek gratification, but their desires are more nuanced and multifaceted.

The poem suggests that women seek not only physical pleasure, but also emotional connection and understanding. The line "The look of love alarms, / Because tis fill'd with fire" suggests that women are wary of men who are too passionate and intense, and that they seek a more nuanced approach to relationships.

Another key theme of the poem is the idea of deception and betrayal. The line "But the look of soft deceit / Shall bind the husband's feet" suggests that women have the ability to manipulate and control men through subtle means. This theme is echoed in the final stanza, which suggests that women have the power to forgive and heal, just as ivy can grow and thrive even in the midst of hardship.

Interpreting the Poem

So what do all of these themes and ideas add up to? What is the ultimate message that William Blake is trying to convey through Several Questions Answered?

One interpretation of the poem is that it explores the complex and often fraught dynamics of relationships between men and women. It suggests that both genders seek different things from each other, but that these desires are often driven by complex emotional needs and desires. The poem also suggests that women have a power that is often overlooked or underestimated, and that they have the ability to both deceive and forgive.

Another interpretation is that the poem is a commentary on the nature of desire and the ways in which it can be manipulated and distorted. The poem suggests that desire can be both a powerful force for good, but also a tool of deception and control. It raises questions about the nature of attraction and lust, and the ways in which they can both empower and enslave us.

Finally, it's worth considering the way in which the poem is written. The use of questions and answers creates a sense of dialogue and conversation, as if the poem is an exchange between two people. This creates a sense of intimacy and immediacy, as if the poet is speaking directly to the reader. The use of rhyme and repetition also creates a sense of musicality and rhythm, making the poem a pleasure to read and listen to.


In conclusion, Several Questions Answered is a true masterpiece of poetic expression. Its exploration of themes of gender, desire, deception, and forgiveness make it a complex and nuanced work, one that continues to resonate with readers today. Whether you're a fan of William Blake's work or simply appreciate great poetry, this is a poem that is well worth exploring in depth.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

William Blake’s “Several Questions Answered” is a classic poem that has been celebrated for its profound philosophical insights and its lyrical beauty. This poem is a perfect example of Blake’s unique style, which combines a deep spiritual vision with a keen sense of social and political critique. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of “Several Questions Answered” and examine how they contribute to the poem’s overall meaning and impact.

The poem begins with a series of questions that are addressed to the speaker’s “dear friend.” These questions are philosophical in nature and touch on some of the most fundamental issues of human existence. For example, the speaker asks, “Why was Cupid a boy, / And why a boy was he?” This question is a reference to the Greek god of love, who is traditionally depicted as a young boy with wings and a bow and arrow. The speaker is asking why love is associated with youth and why it is often portrayed as a playful, mischievous force.

The next question is even more profound: “Why do I love? / Why am I here?” These questions touch on the very essence of human existence and the mystery of consciousness. The speaker is asking why we are here on earth and what our purpose is. These are questions that have puzzled philosophers and theologians for centuries, and Blake’s poem offers a unique perspective on them.

The third question is more specific: “Why does my blood rush / Like a river in flood?” This question is a metaphor for the intensity of human emotion, particularly the passion of love. The speaker is asking why we feel such strong emotions and what drives us to act on them. This question is particularly relevant to Blake’s own life, as he was known for his intense emotional attachments and his passionate beliefs.

The fourth question is perhaps the most enigmatic: “Is it love or is it praise, / That makes me want to raise / My voice in song?” This question touches on the relationship between love and art, and the role that creativity plays in human life. The speaker is asking whether the desire to create art is motivated by a desire for love or a desire for praise. This is a question that has been debated by artists and critics for centuries, and Blake’s poem offers a unique perspective on it.

After posing these questions, the speaker offers a series of answers that are both profound and poetic. The first answer is that Cupid is a boy because love is associated with youth and innocence. The second answer is that we love because we are here on earth to experience the joys and sorrows of life. The third answer is that our blood rushes because we are alive and passionate beings. And the fourth answer is that the desire to create art is motivated by a desire for both love and praise, but ultimately it is driven by a deeper spiritual impulse.

Throughout the poem, Blake uses vivid and evocative imagery to convey his ideas. For example, he describes love as a “little naked boy” with “wings of gold.” This image captures the playful and mischievous nature of love, as well as its beauty and grace. Blake also uses water imagery to convey the intensity of human emotion, describing the rush of blood as a “river in flood” and the tears of joy as a “fountain in the heart.”

In addition to its imagery, “Several Questions Answered” is also notable for its language and style. Blake’s use of rhyme and meter gives the poem a musical quality that enhances its lyrical beauty. The poem is also notable for its use of repetition, particularly in the refrain “Dear friend, / I love you well.” This repetition creates a sense of intimacy and closeness between the speaker and the reader, as if the speaker is confiding in a trusted friend.

Overall, “Several Questions Answered” is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that offers a unique perspective on some of the most fundamental questions of human existence. Through its vivid imagery, lyrical beauty, and philosophical insights, this poem invites us to reflect on the nature of love, art, and the human experience. Whether read as a work of poetry or as a philosophical treatise, “Several Questions Answered” is a timeless masterpiece that continues to inspire and challenge readers today.

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