London, 1800. Things aren't going too well for engraver William Blake.
His business lacks customers, his wife Catherine is nagging him over the bills, he's got trouble from the neighbours, he's driven to distraction by the ongoing war with France, he's seeing visions of the Apocalypse, his planned epic on the divine humanity remains unwritten and what's more he's being haunted by the stony-faced shade of the 17th Century poet and revolutionary John Milton.
In the midst of this heap of troubles, Blake receives an invitation from society author William Hayley to leave London and settle in the seaside village of Felpham, there to act as Hayley's amanuensis. Blake is unsure, but the death of a promising young art student the Blakes had befriended spurs them on to leave the Capitol and its woes behind them.
BLAKE: Leave the Eternal City of my Visions? What kindness has London ever showed me? Years of neglect and all the time ever more ugly. Once was I could walk over Westminster Bridge straight to St. George’s pleasant fields and onwards to pretty villages but now increasingly stone all around. The rural could always revive me. Success amongst the squirearchy? Hayley is an important man. A path to my epics’ popular airing?
In Felpham, things don't quite work out the way Blake had 'em planned. Hayley has the engraver slaving away, illustrating banal verses about animals -"Interesting odes to valiant pets and vicious untamed things"). Catherine falls ill, Blake offends the local Lady of the manor, Milton's still spooking him and his only respite is a few stolen moments of casual sex with country girl Mary.
William Blake's vision is growing dim...
Things come to a head when Blake discovers Catherine in a compromising position with his patron. Blake's paranoia runs amok. When a drunken soldier barges into the garden of his cottage for a piss, Blake reacts angrily and shoves him out.
This leads to a charge of sedition. Only the timely arrival of lawyer Samuel Rose, hired by the forgiving Hayley, rescues Blake's body from prison. At the same time, Blake's spirit is saved by his encounter with the naked and youthful Lamb of God, who reignites Blake's divine vision and gives him the prelude to his epic -
William and Catherine return to London after their "three years sojourn" in Felpham, him vowing to "get on with my mission" and "never make these mistakes again."