While William Blake’s “Holy Thursday” from Songs of Innocence was written before the French Revolution and Blake’s “Holy Thursday” from Songs of Experience was written after, creating obvious differences in formal structure; these poems are also uniquely intertwined by telling the same story of children arriving to church on Holy Thursday. However, each gives a different perspective that plays off each other as well the idea of innocence and experience. The idea that innocence is simply a veil that we are not only aware of but use to mask the horrors of the world until we gain enough experience to know that it is better to see the world for simply what it is.
“Holy Thursday” from Songs of Innocence first published in 1789 takes the time to describe the innocence of the children. Even in the first line of the first stanza the speaker makes it known that the children have innocent faces as they walk into the church. However there is an underlying tone to the poem that implies that the innocence is forced. “Grey headed beadles walkd before with wands as white as snow,” (3). The children are being lead into the church by church officials who are holding wands, manmade objects, that are white or the color associated with purity.
The idea of the innocence having been created or forced to exist is lost as the poem focuses on the children and how innocent they are. This stands out particularly in the second stanza which uses end rhyme and repetition to underline just how many children seemed to be going into the church. It is also in that same stanza that the children are referred to as lambs, which is a common symbol for innocence. It is not simply the multitudes of children, but the multitudes of the innocent that have been gathered. For example, in the third stanza of “Holy Thursday” there is also mention of the children singing “[…] like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,/Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among” (9-10).
However, by reading carefully, the idea of forced innocence is not completely lost instead it is framed by the poem’s formal structure. Knowing this, the subtle implications in “Holy Thursday” seem far from subtle as if the speaker knows that something is off, but cannot see past the idea of innocence and is attempting to remain blissfully unaware. An idea that is supported by the repetition of the hard t sounds and s sounds in “The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs, / Thousands of little boys & girls raising their innocent hands” (7-8). Those lines hold a very solemn and vaguely sinister tone despite all the mention of innocence.
Repetition aside, the meter is iambic heptameter, containing seven feet per line. There are four lines per stanza making the poem quatrain in form along with the use an aabb rhyme pattern. However the rhyme is not perfect in every pair. There are several imperfect rhyme pairs such as “lambs/hands” and “song/among” that serve to mark the shift in tone...