Songs of Innocence & of Experience
Plate 25, Copy L
The opening of Blake's Milton introduces the Bard who appears in the hall of the Eternals to sing his song of entertainment and instruction. Damon calls a bard 'a Celtic poet-prophet, of great antiquity and authority.' His role in Milton is to present a narrative story which articulates the conflict in Milton's life which was left unresolved on his death. Milton's conflicts are Blake's conflicts too, and the conflicts which must be resolved in individuals and societies before psychological development can proceed to the next stage.
The bard is a wisdom figure who passes on to his contemporary culture the accumulated knowledge of the past. Blake uses the Bard to introduce Songs of Experience and invites his listeners to rise like the morn 'from the slumberous mass.' Near the end of Songs of Experience, the Ancient Bard appeals to the youth to leave the past behind and recognize the 'Image of truth new born.'
Milton, Plate 2, (E 96)
"Say first! what mov'd Milton, who walkd about in Eternity One hundred years, pondring the intricate mazes of Providence Unhappy tho in heav'n, he obey'd, he murmur'd not. he was silent Viewing his Sixfold Emanation scatter'd thro' the deep In torment! To go into the deep her to redeem & himself perish? What cause at length mov'd Milton to this unexampled deed[?] A Bards prophetic Song! for sitting at eternal tables, Terrific among the Sons of Albion in chorus solemn & loud A Bard broke forth! all sat attentive to the awful man. Mark well my words! they are of your eternal salvation:"