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“Man, born free, is everywhere in chains.” (Pg. 328) This was the basis for William Blake’s poetry. Blake may have written dreams of sunny days, angels, “wise guardians,” “songs of pleasant glee,” little ones leaping, shouting, and laughing, but to Blake these were all “Songs of Innocence.” To Blake, one had not experienced enough to “know” that life was dreadful, dreary, cruel, and merciless. The reason behind writing “Songs of Innocence,” then “Songs of Experience,” was to illustrate that when one is na?ve, they may think that life is greater than it really seems to be.
Blake is intelligent for being able to articulate two versions of the same poem and, while only changing it slightly, change the whole meaning of the poem altogether. Starting with “Introduction,” in “Songs of Innocence,” William Blake had written of a small child asking to play a song that is cheerful, then sing happily and finish by writing it all in a book so that all who will read it may enjoy the happy songs. While this song may be a joyous melodious poem that is not the real case in the wishes of Blake. Readers will find this out in the second book “Songs of Experience,” in which a second form of “Introduction” is exhibited. This second poem sounds much like the first except that it has a depressing tone that the first did not. Instead of “Piping a song about a lamb,” the line is replaced with “Calling the lapsed Soul And weeping in the evening dew.” So clearly the second poem is written by Blake to show that life is not the happy place that it may seem.
Blake wrote many poems with two versions to them such as “The Chimney Sweeper.” The first version was one that had a fictitious tone and real tone. The fictitious tone was idea of the children doing such a cancer-inducing and filthy job. While one child cries because of the bad situation, the speaking child says to him that he mustn’t think of the bad because he has dreams of an Angel who sets thousands of sweepers free from their “coffins,” meaning their forced job as a chimney sweep. In the end Tom feels ready to work because his dream has shown him that there is a light after his days in danger. But the real tone is that although there is a light, it still is dark at that time in his life. The Tom is working dangerously as a chimney sweep, and although Tom is happy, he is on the edge of life and death. With the use of white and black soot, and black coffins and Angels setting them free to be naked and white, Blake uses this light and dark comparison to create a good and evil of chimney sweeping. That although a chimneysweeper’s life is bad, there will be days in a better place. This better place may also be when the sweeper is dead but still thinking that anything is better than being a chimney sweep. In the second “Chimney Sweeper,” the second line begins “Crying ‘weep! weep’ in notes of woe!” and the fourth, “They are both gone up to the church to pray.” This means that this is after these poor chimneysweepers have died and the parents are mourning the loss of their sons who have “gone to praise God & his Priest & King.” They mean that they have gone to meet God after going to heaven.
Although not directly titled the same, “The Lamb” of “Songs of Innocence” is the harmonious poem compared to “The Tyger” of “Songs of Experience.” While “The Lamb” seems like a na?ve animal that is pure like its “Softest clothing, wooly, bright,” and how it has a “tender voice.” The Lamb was asked if it knew who had created it. Because it was so “meek” and “mild.” All are characteristics of a good and innocent animal. But in “The Tyger” characteristics such as the “immortal hand or eye” hands that “seize the fire.” Blake meant for both these animals to contrast each other. And he puts in strong details such as the “dread hand and dread feet” and strong ironclad objects such as the hammer and the chain. While asking the same question: who had created you, it was put in such a way that the Tyger was so much more strong and knowledgeable than the Lamb.
Another poetic duo in Blake’s “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience,” are “Infant Joy” and “Infant Sorrow.” In “Songs of Innocence,” “Infant Joy” is the joyous occasion of childbirth. The joy of creating life and life creating joy is the heart of this poem. Being two days old the child still does not have a name, but he chooses to name himself Joy halfway through the poem but in the end he says he will sing as he waits for joy to let him down. In “Infant Sorrow,” birth is depicted, as a painful lesson one must learn. “My mother groaned! My father wept,” says the first line.
For Blake, he must’ve had a great time creating poems with two sides to them. With the “Divine Image” from “Songs of Innocence,” life and church society are said to be peaceful, loving, and merciful. “All Pray in their distress And to these virtues of delight Return their thankfulness.” This last part of the first stanza states that all will pray when they are in a rut and be returned with kindness. Life in “Divine Image” of “Songs of Experience” is very different. The human heart is filled with cruelty, jealousy, terror, and secrecy all very deep, dark. The second poem although shorter has a very dark demeanor to it. Speaking upon the troubles that humans may have at times.
Blake writes with the mind set that he will bring joy to a crashing halt. He first creates an ideal. Blake makes a poem that was completely happy and heartfelt that evoked warm feelings and then wrote a dark sinister double to it. It was very creative to be able to create the separate meanings in the different poems as Blake had done. Although the poems had the same title, it was a whole different message intended.
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