Childhood Essay

1816 words - 7 pages

At its fundamental level, adulthood is simply the end of childhood, and the two stages are, by all accounts, drastically different. In the major works of poetry by William Blake and William Wordsworth, the dynamic between these two phases of life is analyzed and articulated. In both Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience and many of Wordsworth’s works, childhood is portrayed as a superior state of mental capacity and freedom. The two poets echo one another in asserting that the individual’s progression into adulthood diminishes this childhood voice. In essence, both poets demonstrate an adoration for the vision possessed by a child, and an aversion to the mental state of adulthood. Although both Blake and Wordsworth show childhood as a state of greater innocence and spiritual vision, their view of its relationship with adulthood differs - Blake believes that childhood is crushed by adulthood, whereas Wordsworth sees childhood living on within the adult.
In the William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, the vision of children and adults are placed in opposition of one another. Blake portrays childhood as a time of optimism and positivity, of heightened connection with the natural world, and where joy is the overpowering emotion. This joyful nature is shown in Infant Joy, where the speaker, a newborn baby, states “’I happy am,/ Joy is my name.’” (Line 4-5) The speaker in this poem is portrayed as being immediately joyful, which represents Blake’s larger view of childhood as a state of joy that is untouched by humanity, and is untarnished by the experience of the real world. In contrast, Blake’s portrayal of adulthood is one of negativity and pessimism. Blake’s child saw the most cheerful aspects of the natural world, whereas the adult is more inclined to see the negative aspects of it. In London, Blake’s speaker demonstrates this extremely pessimistic outlook of the world when he says “And mark in every face I meet / Marks of weakness, marks of woe.” (3-4) The speaker here is seeing the despair and sadness in the faces of people passing by. The heavy diction used in London – the “blackening Church”, the “hapless Soldier’s sigh” (10,11) – reflects the outlook that Blake’s adults have on the world. They are inclined to see the absolute worst in everything. Blake’s adults prescribe this state of ruin to humanity itself. As the speaker in London is wandering the streets, he states that the ills he is seeing are “mind-forg’d” (8). The implication here is that humanity itself has been conditioned to see the worst. In this, the fundamental difference that Blake sees between childhood and adulthood is developed. Blake sees adulthood as a force which pushes individuals away from the state of childhood innocence and towards a world of experience, seen through the eyes of sorrow and pessimism rather than joy and optimism.
Wordsworth too portrays childhood as a time of joy and optimism, but is not quite so harsh on adulthood. Wordsworth...

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