Examining Blake's Songs Of Innocence And Experience English Essay

1416 words - 6 pages

William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, exposes us to two contrary states of the human soul. Written as counterparts to one another, these poems contrast different stages we go through in our lives. In literature, the theme of age and youth seem to constantly appear. In these poems, Blake approaches this theme in an interesting way, by giving us opposing sides of a similar aspect. In this way, we can better grasp the notions of youth and innocence and how they compare to age and experience. “Infant Joy” and “Infant Sorrow” for instance, both have the same subject matter, but with different perspectives. In a way, they are like mirror images of one another, one showing a somewhat different or even distorted reflection of the other. The setup of these poems not only contrasts these themes, but also gives us a better understanding of the larger structure of the text. While “Infant Joy” gives us an optimistic perspective of childbirth, “Infant Sorrow” gives us the pessimistic and dark side of it. Thus, as we look closely at these texts, we begin to see how elements of innocence and experience emerge, which contribute to our understanding of the two states of our souls and more importantly, how Blake intended to project them.
To begin with, the Songs of Innocence were written before the Songs of Experience. In fact, they are listed before the latter in books, and this minor detail already shapes the structure for these poems. The Songs of Experience are obviously reflections of the late and developed stages of our lives. We go through a process of maturation, which really is a process of deterioration. However, we all come into this world as innocent beings. Infant Joy is a poem we can all relate to, as it depicts our natural states as newborns. The speaker of this poem, in fact, seems to be the child itself and the poem’s form consists of two short sestets. These features represent the simplicity of the poem, which in turn represent the innocence of the child/speaker. We are introduced to a conversation between this child and its mother presumably. The mother asks, “What shall I call thee?”(line 3) and the newborn simply replies, “Joy is my name” (line 5). These lines evoke pleasant emotions and make us see the wonders of being a pure, innocent child, who hasn’t yet fallen into the hands of experience i.e. corruption. There is a happy mood throughout the poem and this is sensed by the repetition of the word “joy.” In fact, “joy” is repeated six times throughout the poem, which really just talks about the happiness of this child. Since experience is paired with age, naïveté is similarly associated with youth. And so, the simple words of the poem, along with the rhyme scheme, hint at this naïveté. The short, unrhymed lines, coupled with the inconsistent rhyme scheme, are representative of the child’s lack of development. Only images of serenity and purity come to our minds in this poem.
On the other hand, Blake gives us a sharp contrast...

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