SONGS OF INNOCENCE, Number 16, (E 11)
A CRADLE SONGBlake has a way of setting the stage for the development of his future complex system in his early works. Looking at A Cradle Song from the perspective of Jerusalem we see both the intimation of his process of speaking through images and the particular images which came to speak volumes in his mature works. The word 'image' appears twice in this double poem.
"Sweet dreams form a shade,
O'er my lovely infants head.
Sweet dreams of pleasant streams,
By happy silent moony beams.
Sweet sleep with soft down,
Weave thy brows an infant crown.
Sweet sleep Angel mild,
Hover o'er my happy child.
Sweet smiles in the night,
Hover over my delight.
Sweet smiles Mothers smiles
All the livelong night beguiles.
Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,
Chase not slumber from thy eyes.
Sweet moans, sweeter smiles,
All the dovelike moans beguiles.
Sleep sleep happy child.
All creation slept and smil'd.
Sleep sleep, happy sleep,
While o'er thee thy mother weep.
Sweet babe in thy face,
Holy image I can trace.
Sweet babe once like thee,
Thy maker lay and wept for me
Wept for me for thee for all,
When he was an infant small.
Thou his image ever see,
Heavenly face that smiles on thee.
Smiles on thee on me on all,
Who became an infant small,
Infant smiles are his own smiles.
Heaven & earth to peace beguiles."
First the mother is able to see the creator in the countenance of he child:
"Sweet babe in thy face,
Holy image I can trace."
Later she prays that the child himself may ever see the image of the creator:
"Thou his image ever see,
Heavenly face that smiles on thee."
So the child is in the image of God, and the God whom the child may see is an image also. Blake consistently presents the world of matter as the reflection of another world, the Eternal, more real than this one. We see the Eternal world through images not through our senses. Throughout his art and poetry Blake is presenting us with images of the Eternal for us to integrate into our mental processing.
Among the words in this poem which will frequently appear as images as we continue to read Blake are: dream, shade, infant, moon, sleep, weave, Angel, child, night, delight, mother, weep, babe, face, maker, holy, see, heaven, earth, peace. As images the words point to configurations of associated ideas drawn from our own experience and from the experience of those who influence us. Blake builds his image vocabulary in this poem and in whatever he writes or pictures. We are assisted in building our vocabularies of images through Blake's vast assimilation of ideas from past thinkers and through his gift for seeing through images to the Eternal realities beyond.