Blake the questions themselves become morethreatening. The

Blake the questions themselves become morethreatening. The

Blake PoetryVerily I say unto you, Whoseover shall not receive the kingdom of God asa little child shall in no wise enter therein. S Luke, 18 (17)The words are those of Jesus, who was neither unaware of reality, norindifferent to suffering. The childlike innocence referred to above isa state of purity and not of ignorance. Such is the vision of Blake inhis childlike Songs of Innocence.

It would be foolish to suppose thatthe author of ^Holy Thursday^ and ^The Chimney Sweeper^ in Songs ofInnocence was insensible to the contemporary social conditions oforphans or young sweeps, and that therefore the poems of the same namesin Songs of Experience are somehow apologies or retractions of anearlier misapprehension. For the language and style of Songs ofInnocence are so consistently nave compared to Songs of Experience,that it is clear that the earlier poems are a deliberate attempt tocapture the state of grace described in the Biblical quotation above – acelebration of the triumph of innocence in a world of experience.Often the words of the poem are spoken by a child. It would beimpossible to imagine a modern child using language such as:Gave thee such a tender voice,Making all the vales rejoice.and it is most unlikely that children spoke thus even in Blake^s day. Yet this is the language of children^s hymns.

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I was personallyacquainted with all the words in ^The Lamb^, through Sunday Schoolhymns, long before reaching school age. By using the vocabulary of thehymnals, Blake emphasises for us the connection of which the child isinstinctively aware: I, a child, and thou a lamb, We are called by his name.The syntax and tone, however, have the authentic simplicity ofchildren^s speech. The first verse is a series of questions addressedto the lamb. The second stanza begins with the child^s triumph at beingable to answer those questions: Little Lamb, I^ll tell thee.

Typically the questions are asked purely for the satisfaction it givesthe child in answering. There is a great deal of repetition in all thesongs: in ^The Lamb^ this takes the form of a refrain repeated at thebeginning and the end of each stanza, once more reminiscent ofchildren^s hymns. In contrast, ^The Tyger^ has an incantatory rhythm,far more like a pagan chant than a childish hymn. And the vocabulary isno longer within the understanding of a child: What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?This song also asks questions. But in the world of experience, unlikethe world of innocence, there are no longer any reassuring answers.

Theworld of Innocence is a world of confident answers; in Experience theanswers remain. Indeed, the questions themselves become morethreatening. The slightly incredulous question above alters subtlyduring the progress of the poem until the word ^Could^ is finallyreplaced by the far more menacing ^Dare^.There is no such progressionin Songs of Innocence. Each song captures the ^moment in each day thatSatan cannot find^ Milton, II, Pl.35, 1.42.

Blake^s innocence doesnot develop: it exists.If we compare Songs of Innocence with Songs of Experience we see thatthis pattern is constantly repeated. The moment that the concept ofExperience is introduced the simplicity of the language disappears. Asaffirmation gives way to doubt, the unquestioning faith of innocencebecomes the intellectual argument of experience. In ^Infant Joy^ thebaby is free even of the bonds of a name. In ^Cradle Song^ it is themother who speaks, not with the simplicity of ^Infant Joy^ yet with anaivete emphasised by the repetition of key alliterative words -sweet/sleep/smile – with their connotations of joy. In Songs ofInnocence moans are ^sweet^ and ^dovelike^ Cradle song whereas inSongs of Experience the babies cry in ^fear^ London}.

In Songs of Innocence the narrative is as simple as the direct speech. The verbs are straightforward and unambiguous; God ^appeared^ , He^kissed^ the child, ^led^ him to his mother. And although the bleakerside of life is portrayed – poverty and discrimination for example – theoverall vision is positive. 1.

Blake believed that without contraries there could be noprogression. In Songs of Experience we see Blake ^walking naked^, touse Yeats^ phrase, as he shouts angrily against social evils andreligious manacles and hypocrisy. Songs of Innocence are far morecarefully controlled, for all their apparent artlessness.In Songs ofInnocence Blake^s voice never falters: the language is consistentlynave, and when images of a less childlike nature do intrude they arealways absorbed into the security that is innocence. Innocence is astate of faith that must preclude doubt. Blake^s language is nave andunambiguous.

It is deliberately adopted to suit the subject anddiscarded later in the prophetic books. He may have consideredexperience as a necessary part of life, but Blake remained, supremely, apoet of Innocence.

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