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The progression from innocence to experience to “higher innocence” is an essential part
of life that William Blake discusses through his poems. In the state of innocence of the human
soul, the whole world is perceived as good. Because God is good and He creates all, everything
is accepted without question. Then in the state of experience, all is bad and dominated by evil.
The morality of God is doubted. Through experience, everything is questioned instead of just
being accepted as the ultimate truth. Finally, in “higher innocence”, good is re-embraced with
the acceptance of bad. According to Blake, life is based on experienced.
From the Songs of Innocence, “The Lamb” represents the innocent state of the human
soul. The small, naive child is talking to a “meek” (15) and “mild” (15) lamb. The lamb
signifies the peace and tranquility of the world created by God. The child asks the lamb “Dost
thou know who made thee?” (2), but does not give the lamb a chance to answer. It is accepted
without a doubt that God created the lamb because He only does good things.
“The Lamb” is a poem of complete innocence. Blake uses a small child in the poem
because he is not old enough to have experienced life. The words are comforting and create a
non-threatening picture of the naive child with the white lamb which represents purity.
To demonstrate the progression through life, Blake writes “The Tyger” in the Songs of
Experience. The speaker asks the same question to the tiger as in “The Lamb” only in another
way. “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” (20) The goodness of God is questioned
because it is difficult for the speaker to believe that the “little lamb” (1) and “fearful” (4) tiger
are created by the same person. The speaker is no longer naive of the ways of the world.
For the soul to grow, evil and violence must be experienced. The savage tiger represents
the reality of life. Everything is not perfect and innocent. The fire of the tiger’s eyes and his
size frightens the speaker who does not want to confront it. This represents the fears that people
have in facing difficult situations in life.
In “Holy Thursday” from the Songs of Innocence, the day is the celebration of the
ascention of God. “Innocent faces” (1) and “innocent hands” (8) describe the poor, orphan
children. “They raise to heaven the voice of song” (9) and recieve money from the the upper
class for the orphange. This represents the goodness of the world.
Blake discusses the evil of the world in “Holy Thursday” from the Songs of Experience.
The reality of orphan children’s lives is described. The poem illustrates how even though it is “a
rich and fruitful land” (2) children can still go hungry. It is questioned how God could create a
place of such misery for innocent children.
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