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Verily I say unto you, Whoseover shall not receive the kingdom of God as a

little child shall in no wise enter therein. [S Luke, 18 (17)] The words are

those of Jesus, who was neither unaware of reality, nor indifferent to

suffering. The childlike innocence referred to above is a state of purity and

not of ignorance. Such is the vision of Blake in his childlike Songs of

Innocence. It would be foolish to suppose that the author of ^СHoly

Thursday^Т and ^СThe Chimney Sweeper^Т in Songs of Innocence

was insensible to the contemporary social conditions of orphans or young sweeps,

and that therefore the poems of the same names in Songs of Experience are

somehow apologies or retractions of an earlier misapprehension. For the language

and style of Songs of Innocence are so consistently naпve compared to

Songs of Experience, that it is clear that the earlier poems are a deliberate

attempt to capture the state of grace described in the Biblical quotation above

- a celebration of the triumph of innocence in a world of experience. Often the

words of the poem are spoken by a child. It would be impossible to imagine a

modern child using language such as: Gave thee such a tender voice, Making all

the vales rejoice. and it is most unlikely that children spoke thus even in

Blake^Тs day. Yet this is the language of children^Тs hymns. I was

personally acquainted with all the words in ^СThe Lamb^Т, through

Sunday School hymns, long before reaching school age. By using the vocabulary of

the hymnals, Blake emphasises for us the connection of which the child is

instinctively aware: I, a child, and thou a lamb, We are called by his name. The

syntax and tone, however, have the authentic simplicity of children^Тs

speech. The first verse is a series of questions addressed to the lamb. The

second stanza begins with the child^Тs triumph at being able to answer

those questions: Little Lamb, I^Тll tell thee. Typically the questions are

asked purely for the satisfaction it gives the child in answering. There is a

great deal of repetition in all the songs: in ^СThe Lamb^Т this

takes the form of a refrain repeated at the beginning and the end of each

stanza, once more reminiscent of children^Тs hymns. In contrast, ^СThe

Tyger^Т has an incantatory rhythm, far more like a pagan chant than a

childish hymn. And the vocabulary is no longer within the understanding of a

child: What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? This song

also asks questions. But in the world of experience, unlike the world of

innocence, there are no longer any reassuring answers. The world of Innocence is

a world of confident answers; in Experience the answers remain. Indeed, the

questions themselves become more threatening. The slightly incredulous question

above alters subtly during the progress of the poem until the word ^СCould^Т

is finally replaced by the far more menacing ^СDare^Т. There is no

such progression in Songs of Innocence. Each song captures the ^Сmoment in

each day that Satan cannot find^Т [Milton, II, Pl.35, 1.42]. Blake^Тs

innocence does not develop: it exists. If we compare Songs of Innocence with

Songs of Experience we see that this pattern is constantly repeated. The moment

that the concept of Experience is introduced the simplicity of the language

disappears. As affirmation gives way to doubt, the unquestioning faith of

innocence becomes the intellectual argument of experience. In ^СInfant

Joy^Т the baby is free even of the bonds of a name. In ^СCradle

Song^Т it is the mother who speaks, not with the simplicity of ^СInfant

Joy^Т yet with a naivete emphasised by the repetition of key alliterative

words – sweet/sleep/smile – with their connotations of joy. In Songs of

Innocence moans are ^Сsweet^Т and ^Сdovelike^Т [Cradle

song] whereas in Songs of Experience the babies cry in ^Сfear^Т

[London}. In Songs of Innocence the narrative is as simple as the direct speech.

The verbs are straightforward and unambiguous; God ^Сappeared^Т , He

^Сkissed^Т the child, ^Сled^Т him to his mother. And

although the bleaker side of life is portrayed – poverty and discrimination for

example – the overall vision is positive. 1. Blake believed that without

contraries there could be no progression. In Songs of Experience we see Blake ^Сwalking

naked^Т, to use Yeats^Т phrase, as he shouts angrily against social

evils and religious manacles and hypocrisy. Songs of Innocence are far more

carefully controlled, for all their apparent artlessness. In Songs of Innocence

Blake^Тs voice never falters: the language is consistently naпve,

and when images of a less childlike nature do intrude they are always absorbed

into the security that is innocence. Innocence is a state of faith that must

preclude doubt. Blake^Тs language is naпve and unambiguous. It is

deliberately adopted to suit the subject and discarded later in the prophetic

books. He may have considered experience as a necessary part of life, but Blake

remained, supremely, a poet of Innocence.


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