William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience

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Songs of Innocence and Experience Essays
Songs of Innocence and Experience

In William Blakes Songs of Innocence and Experience, the gentle lamb and the dire tiger define childhood by setting a contrast between the innocence of youth and the experience of age. The Lamb is written with childish repetitions and a selection of words which could satisfy any audience under the age of five. Blake applies the lamb in representation of youthful immaculateness. The Tyger is hard-featured in comparison to The Lamb, in respect to word choice and representation. The Tyger is a poem in which the author makes many inquiries, almost chantlike in their reiterations. The question at hand: could the same creator have made both the tiger and the lamb? For William Blake, the answer is a frightening one. The Romantic Periods affinity towards childhood is epitomized in the poetry of Blakes Songs of Innocence and Experience. “Little Lamb who made thee/ Dost thou know who made thee (Blake 1-2).” The Lambs introductory lines set the style for what follows: an innocent poem about a amiable lamb and its creator. It is divided into two stanzas, the first containing questions of whom it was who created such

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a docile creature with “clothing of delight (Blake 6).” There are images of the lamb frolicking in divine meadows and babbling brooks. The stanza closes with the same inquiry which it began with. The second stanza begins with the author claiming to know the lambs creator, and he proclaims that he will tell him. Blake then states that the lambs creator is none different then the lamb itself. Jesus Christ is often described as a lamb, and Blake uses lines such as “he is meek and he is mild (Blake 15)” to accomplish this. Blake then makes it clear that the poems point of view is from that of a child, when he says “I a child and thou a lamb (Blake 17).” The poem is one of a childs curiosity, untainted conception of creation, and love of all things celestial. The Lambs nearly polar opposite is The Tyger. Its the difference between a feel-good minister waxing warm and fuzzy for Jesus, and a fiery evangelist preaching a hellfire sermon. Instead of the innocent lamb we now have the frightful tiger- the emblem of nature red in tooth and claw- that embodies experience. William Blakes words have turned from heavenly to hellish in the transition from lamb to tiger. “Burnt the fire of thine eye (Blake 6),” and “What the hand dare seize the fire (Blake 7)?” are examples of how somber and serrated his language is in this poem. No longer is the author asking about origins, but is now asking if he who made the innocuous lamb was capable of making such a dreadful beast. Experience asks questions unlike those of innocence. Innocence is “why and how?” while experience is “why and how do things go wrong, and why me?” Innocence is ignorance, and ignorance is, as they say, bliss. Innocence has not yet experienced fiery tigers in its existence, but when it does, it wants to know how lambs and tigers are supposed to co-exist. The poem begins with “Could frame thy fearful symmetry (Blake 4)?” and ends with “Dare frame thy fearful symmetry (Blake 11)?” This is important because when the author initially poses the question, he wants to know who has the ability to make such a creature. After more interrogation, the question evolves to “who could create such a villain of its potential wrath, and why?” William Blakes implied answer is “God.” In the poems, innocence is exhilaration and grace, contrasting with experience which is ill-favored and formidable. According to Blake, God created all creatures, some in his image and others in his antithesis. The Lamb is written in the frame of mind of a Romantic, and The Tyger sets a divergent Hadean image to make the former more holy. The Lamb, from William Blakes Songs of Innocence and Experience is a befitting representation of the purity of heart in childhood, which was the Romantic period. Blake, William. Songs of Innocence and Experience, The Tyger and The Lamb. The Longman Anthology of British Literature . Ed. David Damrosch. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc. 1999. 112, 120.

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