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

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Blake's task in the final three poems of Songs of Innocence and of Experience is reconciling the disparate attitudes which result from seeing the world as pure and holy and seeing the world as damaged and defiled. Those who see only as Innocents are escapists; those who see only through Experience are cynics or tyrants. In his little lines from Auguries of Innocence, Blake suggests an answer to this conundrum:

Songs and Ballads, Auguries of Innocence, (E 491)
"It is right it should be so
Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go
Joy & Woe are woven fine
A Clothing for the soul divine
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine
The Babe is more than swadling Bands
Throughout all these Human Lands"

Although Blake was inconsistent in the arrangement of the poems in Songs of Innocence and of Experience most of the later copies have the same three poems to conclude the series. Since he had been 'Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul', we may be justified in expecting a resolution of the contraries here at the end.

To Tirzah resolves the issue of the contraries by leaving behind the sexual organization of generation to assume the spiritual body free from earthly considerations. It is our 'Mortal part' which is bound to sensory perceptions. Blake, in To Tirzah, is showing that confining our perception to that provided by the material mortal body, closes us to freedom to live in the spirit which Jesus offers.

The Schoolboy focuses attention of imagination as the means through which our minds learn to experience eternal values. The Schoolboy was originally included in Songs of Innocence where it functions well, but placed at the end of Experience it serves the purpose of showing how the development of the imagination opens a gate into the Eternal.

Voice of the Ancient Bard pulls together contraries in invitation and warning. The 'image of truth new born' can be pursued if we avoid the old traps into which we habitually fall.

Each of these three poems mentions being born. The resolution of the contraries of innocence and experience, the joy and woe of life, is rebirth to an understanding of the error in each so that it may be annihilated. An adequate 'Image of Truth' is fully aware of the Eternal nature underlying reality, and assimilates an awareness of shortcomings of our minds and the world we create through our errors of perception.

SONGS 52, (E 30)
To Tirzah

"Whate'er is Born of Mortal Birth,
Must be consumed with the Earth
To rise from Generation free;
Then what have I to do with thee?

The Sexes sprung from Shame & Pride
Blow'd in the morn: in evening died
But Mercy changd Death into Sleep;
The Sexes rose to work & weep.

Thou Mother of my Mortal part.
With cruelty didst mould my Heart.
And with false self-decieving tears,
Didst bind my Nostrils Eyes & Ears.

Didst close my Tongue in senseless clay
And me to Mortal Life betray:
The Death of Jesus set me free,
Then what have I to do with thee?"
[text on illustration: It is Raised a Spiritual Body]

SONGS 53, (E 31)
The School Boy

"I love to rise in a summer morn,
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the sky-lark sings with me.
O! what sweet company.

But to go to school in a summer morn,
O! it drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day,
In sighing and dismay.

Ah! then at times I drooping sit,
And spend many an anxious hour.
Nor in my book can I take delight,
Nor sit in learnings bower,
Worn thro' with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy,
Sit in a cage and sing.
How can a child when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing,
And forget his youthful spring.

O! father & mother, if buds are nip'd,
And blossoms blown away,
And if the tender plants are strip'd
Of their joy in the springing day,
By sorrow and cares dismay,

How shall the summer arise in joy.
Or the summer fruits appear,
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy
Or bless the mellowing year,
When the blasts of winter appear."

SONGS 54, (E 31)
The Voice of the Ancient Bard.

"Youth of delight come hither:
And see the opening morn,
Image of truth new born.
Doubt is fled & clouds of reason.
Dark disputes & artful teazing.
Folly is an endless maze,
Tangled roots perplex her ways,

How many have fallen there!
They stumble all night over bones of the dead,
And feel they know not what but care
And wish to lead others, when they should be led"

Image from British Museum
Songs of Innocence and of Experience

This image was included as a final plate in three early copies of Songs of Innocence and of Experience; later it was replaced by the poem To Tirzah. Erdman (The Illuminated Blake) writes of this picture: "the children gathering here are supporting the Savior in the sense that their belief (like the piper's in Songs 27) enable them and us to see his human form. When Blake replaced this picture with 'To Tizrah' he was choosing another way to say 'It is Raised a Spiritual Body.'" (Page 388) Erdman also says that looking at this plate we can 'understand that the Eternal Man 'has risen,' out of the realm of 'Contrary States,' (Page 94)

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