William Blake's 'Songs of Innocence' and 'Songs of Experience'

Categories: William Blake

'The little Lamb who made thee, Dost thou know who made thee.' The lambs introductory lines set the style for what follows, an innocent poem about a amiable lamb and it's creator (God). It is divided into two stanzas, the first question about who created such a docile creature with 'clothing of delight.' There are images of the lamb frolicking in divine meadows. The stanza closes the same inquiry it began with. In the second stanza it states the lamb's creator is the lamb itself.

Jesus Christ is often described as a lamb 'he is meek and he is mild,' to accomplish this. It then makes it clear that the poem's point of view is from a child, 'I a child and thou a Lamb.'

The lamb's nearly opposite to 'The Tiger.' Instead of the innocent lamb you now have the frightful tiger. Blake's words have turned from heavenly to hellish, from lamb to tiger. 'Burnt the fire of thine eye' and 'What the hand dare seize the fire.

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' These are examples of how sombre his language in this poem is. Now he's asking if he made the gentle lamb how was he capable of making a beast. Experience asks questions unlike those of innocence. Innocence is 'why and how' while experience is 'why and how do things go wrong, and why me?' Innocence is ignorance and ignorance is, as they say, bliss.

The poems have a very religious theme 'what immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry.

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' 'immortal hand' can only refer to God. So many questions are asked of God, especially the final bit of the stanza, it seems to suggest that Blake cannot understand how God could create an animal that is beautiful and fearful. Added to this Blake uses many vivid metaphors, which produce strong images of beauty and power. 'burning bright, in the forests of the night.'

'The Chimney Sweeper' is two poems 'Songs of Innocence' and 'Songs of Experience. It's written in rhyming couplets and in the 'Songs of Innocence' it has six verses of four lines each. It is about the misery of life contrasting with the joy of visionary from the dream. In the first stanza of each poem the 'weep!weep! of a child, in the misery of their life. Like the lamb and the Tiger the poems are very religious too. In the Innocence poem, in the third stanza it refers to Jesus' resurrection 'opened the coffins and set them free.'

Also the Garden of Eden, 'Then down the green plain,' meaning someday the children will be set free of their pain and misery like Jesus was. In the innocence poem it refers to 'curled like a lambs back' showing the lamb is not the Lamb of God in this context, it's showing man's inhumanity to man. Even though they are living in such pain and misery God still says 'that the soot cannot spoil your white hair,' meaning there is enough innocence to still be white like a lamb.' By the end of 'Song of Innocence' the child has found inner peace, joy and is 'happy and warm.' Also 'If all do their duty, they need not fear harm,' meaning the idea of duty on no uncertain terms.

In contrast 'The Chimney Sweeper' songs of experience talks about the parents exploiting their child and believe they do no harm as he appears 'happy upon the heath.' He does seem happy despite his ' clothes of death,' meaning his soot stained clothes and the living death which the child is suffering. In the first stanza it seems that the church condones and over looks this cruelty 'they are both gone up to the church to pray.' In the last stanza 'God and his Priest and King' are blamed for the state of the children 'who make up a heaven of our misery,' meaning heaven in hells despair. There is a vivid contrast between the life of a child should have 'happy upon the heath' and the suffering to which it is reduced by those who 'make up heaven of our misery.' To me the poem is a mournful cry with 'notes of woe.'

In the 'Nurse's Song , 'Song of Innocence.' The poem indicates the happiness and innocence enjoyed by all those who watch children play. It's lyrically soft in control and certain rhyming lines are in even. The first stanza is of tranquillity, for the nurse can hear the children's voices, 'laughing is heard on the hill.' In the second stanza the nurse pleas for the children to come inside, 'leave off play, and let us away.' The nurse wants the children in so they don't become ill because in those days there weren't the pills there are today if you became ill.

The children say 'No, no let us play, for it is yet day.' ' In the sky the little birds fly and the hills are covered with sheep.' The birds showing freedom and the sheep showing innocence, so the nurse lets them play on ' all the hills echoed,' with children playing. In the poem the rhythmic movement some how harmonises with the movement of the children playing.

In contrast the 'Nurse's song , 'Song on Experience' is about a nurse looking back. This is a very short poem only made up of two stanzas. Now that's she's looking back she doesn't hear the laughter on the hill but she hears whisperings in the dale, meaning the children have gone. She also recalls her youth.. ' The day of my youth rise in my mind my face turns green and pale.' Meaning she's jealous of youth and their play. In the second stanza she tells how her spring was wasted and warns her charges that their winter will be spoilt by secret longings and disillusions. 'Your spring and your days,' meaning they should be doing something constructive and not playing. 'An your winter and night in disguise,' meaning cold, darkness and the taking way of light of youth, this nurse is very bitter.

The poem I liked most is 'The Tiger' poem because it catches my eye from the start 'Tiger, tiger burning bright.' Straight away I get visions of power and energy of the tiger, colours of yellow' red and orange fill my mind. I find this poem fills my mind with colours when I read it. 'Burnt the fire if thine eyes.' It griped my attention soon as it started and I didn't want it to end. For me, when I read a poem it has to catch my attention straight away or I just can't seem to get into the poem at all.

The poem I liked least is 'The Chimney Sweeper.' I just couldn't get into the poem and it took me awhile to understand it. For me it just didn't flow as easy, maybe that was because the poem is about pain and misery and I like to read poems that lift me and make me feel happy, all this poem did was leave me sad.

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

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William Blake's 'Songs of Innocence' and 'Songs of Experience'. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/william-blakes-songs-innocence-songs-experience-2-new-essay

William Blake's 'Songs of Innocence' and 'Songs of Experience' essay
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