Blake seeks to provide the Golden String which can lead us through the labyrinth of our experience or his own poetry.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul

Songs of Experience immediately announces that the unmarred world of innocence has been fractured. Earth is invited to rise like the morn from the 'slumberous mass'. Innocence has been a sleep from which man must awake in order to continue to develop. Consciousness of the state in which man exists is the first requisite for transitioning to a more complete psychological pattern. Songs of Experience is designed to raise awareness of the things we accept in the outer world which could and should be changed. Blake's poems call on us to see deceptions and distortions which we accept internally as well as externally.

Blake intended that his readers see more than individual poems in Songs of Experience. The progress of the Soul through Experience should be discernible as we read. Since the soul's journey is not direct, the poems do not follow a single direct thread. The fact that Blake shifted the arrangement of the poems in various copies indicates that there is not a single best way to indicate the progression through experience. Blake may have intended to treat the internal stages through which the soul travels in the earlier poems of Experience, and moved to external indications of the distance the soul has moved from its source in the later poems.

The quotes in this post (through Song 41, 'The Angel'), focus on internal changes which accompany the falling away from Innocence. Some of the conditions which are apparent in these early poems of Experience which were less present in Innocence are: fear, failure to love, inability to see the holy, denial of harsh realities, and accepting the unfulfilled status.

British Museum
Copy B,
1794, plate 29
Frontispiece to "Songs of Experience"

SONGS 30, (E 18)

"O Earth O Earth return!
Arise from out the dewy grass;
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumberous mass,"

SONGS 31, (E 18)
EARTH'S Answer.

" Selfish father of men
Cruel jealous selfish fear
Can delight
Chain'd in night
The virgins of youth and morning bear."

SONGS 32, (E 19)

"But a Pebble of the brook,
Warbled out these metres meet.

Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to Its delight:
Joys in anothers loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heavens despite."

SONGS 33, (E 19)

"Is this a holy thing to see,
In a rich and fruitful land,
Babes reduced to misery,
Fed with cold and usurous hand?"

SONGS 34 - 35
The Little Girl Lost

"While the lioness,
Loos'd her slender dress,
And naked they convey'd
To caves the sleeping maid.

Songs 36, (E 22)
The Little Girl Found

Then they followed,
Where the vision led:
And saw their sleeping child,
Among tygers wild.

To this day they dwell
In a lonely dell
Nor fear the wolvish howl,
Nor the lions growl".

SONGS 37 (E 23)
The Chimney Sweeper

"And because I am happy, & dance & sing,
They think they have done me no injury:
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King
Who make up a heaven of our misery."

SONGS 41, (E 24)
The Angel

"Soon my Angel came again;
I was arm'd, he came in vain:
For the time of youth was fled
And grey hairs were on my head."

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