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

Friday, May 31, 2013


Songs of Innocence was originally printed by Blake in 1789, the first of his illuminated texts following his experiments in 1788 with combining text and images in All Religions are One and There is No Natural Religion. Blake issued five other illuminated books before producing in 1794 the companion to Songs of Innocence: Songs of Experience. The title page of the combined book was the subject of a previous post. Today we look at the frontispieces of the two books as a means of beginning to compare various plates in 'Innocence' and 'Experience.' The British Museum Copy A , which was once owned by Britain's prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, will provide the images.
British Museum
Songs of Experience
Copy A
British Museum
Songs of Innocence
Copy A

Blake has created similar images for the two plates to lead us to noting the meaning of  both similarities and differences we observe. Perhaps most obvious of the similarities is that the central figures are both 'setting forth' as are the figures on the frontispieces of Milton and of Jerusalem. As usual Blake invites us to undertake a spiritual journey as we enter an unfamiliar world which has the potential for transforming our thinking.

The differences in the two images may best be addressed by asking questions:
Why is the child airborne in a cloud or sitting on the man's head?
Why is the landscape enclosed or open?
Why does one man gaze at the child, one at the reader?
Why does one man carry a musical instrument? 

We are looking for our own answers in the pictures and in the poetry. Blake intended to open the minds of his readers into the world of imagination not to introduce him to a rigid system for interpreting life.


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