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William Blake was born in 1757 in London and died in 1827. Some of his most famous are in two volumes of poetry-“songs of innocence” and “songs of experience”. “Songs of innocence” written in (1789); were written for children, easy to understand, very simple vocabulary, simple verses, ideal, happy and optimistic. “Songs of experience” written in (1794); had more difficult ideas and vocabulary, pessimistic, realistic and sad. Blake’s world was transformed by the “Industrial Revolution”. Children worked in mines/factories/up chimney’s etc.
In the 18th century people were encouraged to accept their role in life by promising a reward of a better life after death providing they are good whilst living on earth. Blake did not share this view at all! Blake did six poems three where “songs of innocence” and the other three were “songs of experience” and all six were made as three pairs each pair consisting of one “songs of Innocence” poem and one “songs of experience” poem.
The pairs were as follows:- “Songs of innocence” “Songs of experience” 1) Infant Joy Infant Sorrow (Babyhood) ) Nurses Song Nurses Song (Childhood pre-work) 3)
The Chimney Sweeper The Chimney sweeper (Work) In Blake poetry we have studied 6 poems “Infant Joy”, “Nurses Song” and “The Chimney Sweep”. All these have two separate poems but with the same title the difference between the two are that the first one is the good times in life for a chimneysweeper “songs of innocence” and the second the bad times in life ” songs of experience”. The “songs of innocence” were Blake’s most popular poems because it told how good life was and there were simple words to pronounce.
Where as “songs of experience” were shorter than “songs of innocence” and a lot more detailed and complicated writing with a deeper meaning behind them. So in total there was three “songs of innocence” and three “songs of experience”. The first stage of childhood is shown in “Infant Joy”. Blake’s first poem of the six number one in the pair is called “Infant joy and infant sorrow”. It is made up of two short verses. It’s a period of time where a mother has just had her baby and talking to him and in the babies mind he is speaking to her. The mother is celebrating about the birth of her child and what she will call him.
The baby is smiling and the mother is singing. The baby is two days old and called joy. The poem sounds like a simple nursery rhyme because of the easy words to recite. Rhyming lines like (smile and while) and (thee and thee) and represents peace and harmony. In his original version of the poem Blake illustrated this in his poem as Mary and Jesus with an Angel overlooking them. This is how Blake feels when it comes to childhood birth. The whole mood of the poem is relaxed and lots of affection is passed between the mother of the baby and the baby.
We assume that this is a rich family who really want this baby and really love and cherish it. The word joy is recited six times indicating that this poem is happy, joyful and peaceful. Some lines have been swapped around to created a sense of peace and harmony. E. g. : (I happy am). “Infant sorrow” is put under songs of experience it is the other song in the pair with “Infant Joy”. Its words use more complicates and harder to recite. The rhyming lines are called rhyming couplets and are for example (wept, leapt, cloud, hands, bands, best and breast).
This creates an atmosphere of anger. It makes us read it more quickly creating it. The child is from a poor family who can’t afford it. It’s the child who is speaking in the poem. His mother and father suffered pain when he was born “my mother groaned, my father wept”. The child is being born into a poor world full of poverty etc. The words in the poem ” helpless, naked, piping loud” makes us feel the baby is trapped and helpless born into a world of order, authority and rules. Blake compares the baby to a fiend (the devil) because of the way his parents treat him.
The words ” struggling” and ” striving” suggest that he is being treated badly but can’t escape from it. The feelings bound, weary and sulk suggest that the baby is weak but helpless against it. The whole mood of the poem is helpless, cruel and devil like. The words that show the poem is more complicated than the first poem “infant joy” are (swaddles, bands, striving, fiend, bound). So the poem altogether shows and suggests it has a deeper meaning. The child could represent mankind. The Nurses song of innocence is presented in a pair the same way as “infant joy ” and “infant sorrow” it’s the happy one.
It is made up of four verses and the rhyming pattern is lines two and four. Blake portrays good and evil an this way; a young day is “songs of innocence” and the nighttime is the gaining of experience “song of experience”. The scene is presented in green hills with sheep and birds singing. The poem is about a kind and caring nurse who wants the children to come in because it is getting dark but the children reply if the sheep and animals stay out why can’t we. So the nurse says they can stay out until the sheep and animals go in. In the first verse the nurse says, “my heart is at rest within my breast”.
This is when she hears the voices of the children. These words create a mood of peace and joyful happiness. The nurse does not want the children to stay out late because the night is arriving and the gaining of experience e. g. (working in the chimneys). The nature of this poem is calm and peaceful. In the poem nature is in harmony with the children; while the hells (work) echo their laughter. It is trying to get across that all children have the right to freedom. Blake suggests strongly that children should not work and have the right to freedom.
This poem is twice as short as “nurses song of innocence”. The whole overall mood of the poem is depressed, sad and uneasy. It contrasts with ” songs of innocence” because this is the total opposite of it. You can tell Blake wanted them to be seen as a pair because they have the same title “Nurses song” and the same first sentence ” when the voices are heard on the green” and they both involve a nurse and some children. In the poem the concerning lines for the reader are ” whisperings in the dale” and “my face turns green and pale”.
The last two lines of verse one suggest that the nurse had a terrible childhood ” the days of youth fresh in my mind, my face turns green and pale. In verse two the fears that are echoed about adulthood are “your spring and your day are washed away in play, and your winter and night are in disguise”. The nurses warning in the last two lines is your future is hidden from you adulthood and times of suffering will soon come and the children are unaware of what will happen in the future. In this poem the spring represents times of development and of innocence.
The winter the gaining of experience; adulthood times of suffering etc. When the nurse recites whisperings in the dale a dale is a deep valley and whisperings indicating they are hidden away, not playing out. This also says that playtime for the children “time of innocence” is washed away because adulthood soon comes. This nurse is very gallous of the children I think because she had a bad time in her life she does not want anyone else to have fun. This nurse is very selfish and one sided. She is an awful compared two the first nurse. This is the last pair of poems of the six it starts as usual with songs of innocence.
It consists of six verses and it is the last stage of evolution (growth) in the poem talking is the actual boy chimney sweep. In this we learn about the chimney sweeps life. We learn that his mother died at a young age and his father sold him. It is a poem between him and his friend “little Tom Dacre” , “Tom Dacre ” is upset in the poem because he has just had all of his hair shaved off. The other chimney sweep comforts him by saying “now the soot won’t spoil your hair”. This suggests that the chimney sweep ism very charitable and caring.
In the poem “Tom Dacre” has a dream about chimney sweeps dying in the chimneys “coffins of black” and an angel with a bright key came and set all the chimney sweeps free. They all went to heaven with God. This dream comforts Tom by if he does his duty on earth then he will join God in heaven. The line at the end of the verse one has an alliteration “sweep, soot and sleep” Emphasis the chimney sweeps routine of his life that he can’t break away from. The message of charity in verse two is that the child has been abandoned by his parents but he feels no bitterness instead extends his kindness to people “Tom Dacre”.
In the first verse Blake repeats the word weep four times to indicate the boy is very young and can’t pronounce the word sweep and he is crying. The child is crying because he has an awful life as a chimney sweeper and has nothing to look forward to. Blake compares “Tom dacre” to a lamb in the poem to indicate how young he is because of his white fair hair and that lambs get their wool shaven like Tom got his hair shaved. The words that emphasis joy and freedom in verse four are ” then down the green plane, leaping, laughing, they run and wash in the rivers and shine in the sun.
In the poem the angel in verse five in “Tom dacres” dream promises ” If he’d have God for his father, and never want joy”. This means he will never want joy because he will already have it from God. This is the last poem of the six “The chimney sweeper songs of experience” its half as long as ” the chimney sweeper songs of innocence” and consists of three verses. In the very first line it emphases the parents pitiful sight because it states ” a little black thing” not a boy, a thing and he is in a cold winters snow.
The Childs misery is continued in verse four by him crying in notes of woe (which means crying) and saying the words “‘weep” twice because he is so young he can’t pronounce the word “sweep”. His parents have gone to the church to prey. The parents are preying to God when yet they have a responsibility of looking after their son who is stuck out in the cold. So really they shouldn’t of taken on the task of bringing up a son in the first place! In verse two it is split up into two sections the first two lines are how happy and joyful the chimney sweep is before work “because I was happy upon the heath, smiled among the winters snow”.
The two lines at work about how unhappy and depressed he is “They clothed me in clothes of death, and taught me to sing notes of woe”. This is where he talks about his parents “they clothed me in clothes of death” means his funeral clothes being a hard labour chimney sweep. In verse three he trys to hide his suffering “and because I am happy, dance and sing, they think they have done me no injury” this means when the parents see him he pretends he is happy. So they don’t do anything.
This is all from the message from the church preached at the time ” so if all do their duty they need not fear harm”. So if people did their duty now and educed their existence a better life will become of it after death. Blake did share this view and mooched it through his poems as in the last two lines of the poem ” and are gone to praise God and his priest and king, who make up heaven of our misery”. Over two hundred years ago climbing boys were very common. The master sweep went round buying these poor four and a half year old boys for climbing up the chimney with.
Skinny boys were the most useful the gaps were as little as one foot squared and some of the boys got stuck and died. These boys where very common and no-one complained about them because they put a lot of hard effort into the job and if the boys wanted to come back from down the chimney the master sweeper wouldn’t let them; then they would shove pins or something sharp in their feet or light a fire so they couldn’t come down. The only thing the climbing boys got to look forward to was dieing and joining God.
It was the boys only hope but Blake did’nt like this and mooched the church in his poems because they did nothing about it. And did nothing to help the children. Most of the children died between the ages of two and three years of working in the chimneys. Their lungs would get damaged from the soot some of them even choked on it, it was that bad. The prices that the boys where being sold at is unbelievable as little as fifty pence could get you a climbing boy. But upon till the nineteen hundreds they were still being used but a lot of laws were passed to abolish it.
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