wrote during the Romantic period which was a span between 1785 –
1830. Other great writers during this time were Mary Wollstonecraft,
Coleridge, Wordsworth, and others. Some said that the Romantic period
was the fairy tale way of writing through symbolism and allegory and
also an age for individualism. A crucial point by Romantic theorist
referred to the mind, emotions, and imagination of the poet (Abrams,
et al 5). In comparison to Blake?s Songs of Innocence and Songs of
Experience Northrop Fry?s distinction between the imagined states of
innocence and experience is stated as thus:
innocence: unfallen world/ unified self/ integration with nature/
time in harmony with rhythm of human existence.
experience: fallen world/ fragmented divided self/ alienation from
nature/ time as destructive, in opposition of human desire (Feldman).
This can be seen
in ?The Lamb,? and ?The Chimney Sweeper;? from Songs of Innocence and
in Songs of Experience ?The Tyger,? and ?The Chimney Sweeper,?.
Blake was little
known as a poet during his lifetime. His reputation became
established late in the 19th century. Blake?s first book of poems was
Poetical Sketches. This book of poems showed his dissatisfaction with
the reigning poetic tradition and his restless quest for new forms
and techniques (Abrams, et al 19). Blake was said to write symbolist
poetry in which things such as a cloud, a flower, or a mountain was
presented as an object imbued with significance beyond itself
(Abrams, et al 8). Blake along with other poets explored visionary
states of consciousness that are common among children but violate
the standard categories of adult judgement (Abrams, et al 10). This
can be seen in Blake?s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. In
Songs of Innocence the speaker is often a child and in Songs of
Experience the speaker is often an adult (Mack, et al 184). This
could be due to the fact that children thought to be of what innocent
adults have already ?experienced.?
experimented with partial rhymes and novel rhythms and employed bold
figures of speech that at times approximate symbols. One of the
strongest features in Blake?s philosophy was his belief in
imagination as an active force. He attacked rationalism,
authoritarianism, industrialization, and organized religion as
destructive of creative and spiritual energies(Feldman). Blake said
that the two group of poems Songs of Innocence and of Experience
represent the world as it is envisioned by what he calls, ?two
contrary states of the human soul,? (Abrams 19). In the Songs of
Experience, such as ?London? and ?The Tyger,? Blake achieved his
mature lyric techniques of metaphor and symbol which explode into a
multiplicity of references (Abrams, et al 19). The Song of Innocence
is almost full of brightness, cheer, and peace yet, the Songs of
Experience is depicting a world worn and full of miserable human
beings (Mack, et al 785).
range from simplicity and lyrical style as in the Songs of Innocence
and Experience to more elaborate style such as in The Four Zoas. For
some, Blake?s works can be difficult at times. One reason is that the
reader is reading Blake?s visions in Blake?s own terms (Dover). Blake
said that, ? The Nature of my Work is Visionary or Imaginative.? What
he meant by this is often misinterpreted; on that note Blake said,
?that which can be made Explicit to the Idiots is not worth my
introduction song to the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience
is a good example of not only Blake?s views of the role of Innocence
and Experience in regeneration, but also the complexity of the
seemingly simple songs (Magill, et al 208). Some symbols in the poems
are for instance the lamb in the Song of Innocence. The lamb is a
symbol of Christ and his pureness and innocence. The poem, ?The
Tyger,? has a few symbols also one of which is the lamb again and the
tyger itself. In the poem Blake says, ?did he who made the lamb make
thee?(line 20)? This represents the purity of the lamb and the beast
in the tyger and Blake is wondering how something so vicious could be
created by God. The poem ?The Lamb,? and the poem, ?The Tyger? depict
the nature of perception in those states and the contradictions which
abide in each state (Magill, et al 209). Other symbols in his poetry
are in the ?Introduction,? the child on the cloud perhaps meaning
pureness. Also in ?Earth?s Answer,? when he refers to Earth rasing
her head up is very visionary and imaginative.
Innocence and of Experience illustrate two imaginative realms: the
state of innocence and the state of experience. They represent two
different ways of seeing, and this is seen is Northrop Fry?s
distinction between the two in paragraph one. In the song ?The Lamb,?
the child knows the lamb is innocent and pure. The speaker says, ?he
is meek & he is mild? (line 15), this represents the unfallen
world. Time in harmony with rhythm of human existence is represented
in ?The Chimney Sweeper,?. The child knows of death but also of
living after death and having hope. The speaker speaks of his mother
dying, this is the death part, and then has a vision of an Angel
taking chimney sweepers to heaven. The fallen world is represented in
Songs of Experience in the song ?The Tyger?. The speaker knows that
everything is not perfect including the tyger although he and the
lamb were created by the same person, some sense of understanding is
established. Time as destructive in opposition of human desire is
represented by ?The Chimney Sweeper?. The speaker in the poem is
older then in the one in Songs of Innocence. The speaker knows of
death because both of his parents are already dead probably and he is
just trying to make it in society by being a chimney sweeper.
have commented and explored Blake?s works. The poet Wordsworth
commented that, ?there is no doubt that this poor man was mad, but
there is something in his madness which interests me more than the
sanity of the Lord Byron and Walter Scott.? Another poet John Ruskin
similarly felt that Blake?s work was ?diseased and wild? even if his
mind was ?great and wise.? Carl Jung referred to Blake as a visionary
poet who had achieved contact with the poetic well spring of the
unconscious. Blake was said to see visions as early as age four.
These visions included seeing trees filled with Angels, and God
looking at him through the window. Many for this reason thought Blake
Were the critics
right, was Blake genuinely mad, or was he just a poet trying to make
a name for himself? His works were somewhat unique, and he did use a
lot of new techniques. I found his work to be rather interesting and
unusual. I thought he used great metaphors and comparisons in his
works. His works were full of symbols and symbolism. He did do a lot
of fairy tale writing as the critics said took place during the
Romantic period. He used his mind, emotions, and imagination to
portray his thoughts and feelings in his work. Overall Blake?s works
were different, although the public did not recognize them as good
poetry during the period in which he wrote. Today Blake?s poetry, as
well as his art, are greatly appreciated. Doing research on the
internet I discovered this. There were many web sites dedicated to
him and his works.
Abrams, M. H, et
al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 6th ed. Vol. 2. NY:
W. W. Norton and Company, 1993.
Abrams, M. H.
English Romantic Poets. London: Oxford University Press, 1960.
William Blake (1757-1827): Poet, Artist, and Engraver. Online. World
wide web. Avaliable at http://io.newi.ac.uk/rdover/blake/welcome.htm.
William Blake. Online. World wide web. Available at
and John Grant. Blake?s Poetry and Designs. NY: W. W. Norton and
et al. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. 2nd ed. Vol. 2.
NY: W. W. Norton and Company, 1995.
et al. Critical Survey of Poetry. New Jersey: Salem Press Englewood
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