William Blake’s Songs Of Innocence And Experience

1340 words - 5 pages

A poet does not achieve the highest levels of success until generations and generations after his death have critiqued and recognized his works of art, as seen by the revered poet William Blake. He lived and crafted his finest masterpieces during the era of Romanticism, which is marked by the earliest poems of William Blake in 1783 (Anthology, pg 3). Along with Wordsworth, modern poetry was created (Anthology, pg 8). During the eighteenth and nineteenth century, poetry that described nature and landscapes emerged. Blake was a somewhat ambitious artist who questioned the world and rebelled against tradition and customs. He saw these aspects of life troubling because he did not always agree with the way in which society pressured him to conform. Although Blake did eventually marry, his marriage went through tumultuous periods, sometimes filled with sexual jealousy. This can be interpreted in the “Sick Rose”. William Blake could be characterized as an antinomian. He was a person who based his own religion and morality based on personal experiences with God, or a higher power (Notes, 6/27). His individualistic approach to life can be seen in his modernizing work Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience.
One of the more difficult works of Blake to assess is the pair of poems Holy Thursday. The first and most obvious difference between these poems is the way in which they are constructed. In Songs of Innocence, Blake is telling a story that merely explains the irony behind Holy Thursday, which is the fortieth day after Easter. The children he is referring to that are wearing red and blue and green are actually chimney sweepers. The irony is that the Church, who in an ideal society has a moral obligation to assist the Children of God, is actually exploiting the same young children it vowed to provide adequate guardianship. I think that this poem’s tone is also conflicting and ironic. Although Blake is “describing” the exploitation, he does it in a powerful and somewhat ambitious tone. “Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song”. This line strikes me as confusing; the children are going back to terrible, awful “jobs”, yet they are singing and acting as if they are a powerful army going to battle, even though they are being lead by their exploiters with disciplinary wands (Anthology, pg 22). It seems as though the children find solace in their exploitation by being together. In Songs of Experience, the tone is much different. First, Blake is questioning the exploitation much more strongly with an overtone of anger and resentment. He explicitly states the misery these children endure, which is not “holy” at all. The song that I felt was powerful in the Songs of Innocence is reduced to a “trembling cry” (line 5, pg 24). The last stanza is also prescriptive of society, meaning that this is the way society should be, not the way it is (Notes, 6/27). Society is full of hunger, suffering, and poverty. Both...

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