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Songs of Innocence & of Experience
Plate 50, Copy T
"A Little GIRL Lost Children of the future Age, Reading this indignant page; Know that in a former time. Love! sweet Love! was thought a crime. In the Age of Gold, Free from winters cold: Youth and maiden bright, To the holy light, Naked in the sunny beams delight. Once a youthful pair Fill'd with softest care: Met in garden bright, Where the holy light, Had just removd the curtains of the night. There in rising day, On the grass they play: Parents were afar: Strangers came not near: And the maiden soon forgot her fear. Tired with kisses sweet They agree to meet, When the silent sleep Waves o'er heavens deep; And the weary tired wanderers weep. To her father white Came the maiden bright: But his loving look, Like the holy book, All her tender limbs with terror shook. Ona! pale and weak! To thy father speak: O the trembling fear! O the dismal care! That shakes the blossoms of my hoary hair"In his poem from Songs of Experience named, A Little GIRL Lost, Blake asks us to look at the situation of youthful love from the perspective of three different ages: the golden age, present age and future age. He also introduces three psycho/social attitudes to the situation he presents. Before the law youthful sexual behavior may be consider a crime. Viewed by one's social group such behavior may be viewed as shameful. If such behavior is considered a violation of one's own standard by the superego, infractions produce guilt feelings.
In the age of gold everything is holy; there is no crime, shamefulness, or guilt. This is the age of complete innocence or Eden. There is no knowledge of evil or good. In Genesis this is presented as Adam and Eve not knowing that they were naked before they ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The youthful pair in the poem were not in a state of innocence because the 'curtain of night' had been lifted. They felt no shame in their playing in the grass and kissing because they were undetected by parents or strangers. There was a latent sense of guilt which produced fear but it was overcome by pleasure.
However the superego began to activate the sense of guilt when they agreed to meet under cover of darkness. With potential observers asleep the constraints of the shame of being discovered would not inhibit them. However the girl could not escape her own conscience when she was in the presence of her father and the holy book through which her superego had been developed.
The last verse is an appeal for openness. Errors and failing will lose their power to create fear and depression if they are brought into consciousness through self awareness and confession. Standards of behavior need to be examined in the light of circumstances and consequences. Blake foresees an age when love will be understood and practiced in such a way the there could be no objections to it. In the meantime Blake is appalled by the conditions which remove the joy from youth.
The ancient golden age is renewed for Luvah and Vala as Blake's Four Zoas is drawing to a conclusion with the awakening of the Eternal Man.
Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 126, (E 395) "Luvah & Vala descended & enterd the Gates of Dark Urthona And walkd from the hands of Urizen in the shadows of Valas Garden Where the impressions of Despair & Hope for ever vegetate In flowers in fruits in fishes birds & beasts & clouds & waters The land of doubts & shadows sweet delusions unformd hopes They saw no more the terrible confusion of the wracking universe They heard not saw not felt not all the terrible confusion For in their orbed senses within closd up they wanderd at will And those upon the Couches viewd them in the dreams of Beulah As they reposd from the terrible wide universal harvest Invisible Luvah in bright clouds hoverd over Valas head And thus their ancient golden age renewd for Luvah spoke With voice mild from his golden Cloud upon the breath of morning Come forth O Vala from the grass & from the silent Dew Rise from the dews of death for the Eternal Man is Risen She rises among flowers & looks toward the Eastern clearness She walks yea runs her feet are wingd on the tops of the bending grass Her garments rejoice in the vocal wind & her hair glistens with dew She answerd thus Whose voice is this in the voice of the nourishing air In the spirit of the morning awaking the Soul from its grassy bed"