William Blake Songs of Innocence/Experience Quotes

HideShow resource information

Religion

  • Holy Thursday (Experience) - Blake critiques the religious leaders of his day for their hypocrisy and claimed acts of charity. He see's the established church hymn's as a sham - the sound which would represent the day more accurately would be the "trembling cry" of a poor child. The poems regimented rhyme scheme of AABB reflects the control of the church - the children "walking two and two" and "seated in companies".
  • The Garden of Love - attacks priests for stifling desire and controlling everything; converting the eponymour "Garden of Love"into a "chapel", governed by laws and prohibitions which succeeded in turning Eden into a graveyard. Religion is repressive and jugdemental - "the gates of this chapel were shut" - still applicable today (gay marriage only legalised in 2013). Blake's strip people of their "joys and desires" - Blake in favour of free love. Religion=tyrannical - the narrator witnesses priests "walking their rounds".
  • The Chimney Sweeper (Innocence)- The "angel" in stanza 4 could be there to save a child. But I believe the angel actually represents priests, or 'beagles; described in Holy Thursday - criticises their self-righteousness (portraying themselves as saviours). Blake could be attacking the Church for instructing the poor to keep their place and be rewarded in heaven, rather than trying to alleviate their suffering on Earth. 
1 of 5

Experience

  • The Sick Rose - Sexual concepts. Rose = conventional symbol of love and passion. "the dark secret of love" = sex? Concept of sex is usually kept secret from children? Also has links to death - worms are quintessentially earthbound, symbolize death and decay. Death is an unknown concept to child, it's not until they are older and are experience that they understand the process of death.
  • The Chimney Sweeper (Innocence) - the eponymous chimney sweeper was introdced into the world of experience early on when his mother died when he was "very youngand then sold before he "could scarcely cry". He is very familiar with death - "the coffins of black" serve as a metaphor for the chimneys and the dangers of his profession. The shaving of "little Tom Dacre" is very upset when his hair is shave off - symbolic for the loss of innocence - resemble's a lamb's back and it is white -- suggestion of innocence and purity.
2 of 5

Rural vs Urban Life

  • The Echoing Green - follows the structure of a day - starting with "the sun does arise" and in the final stanza "the sun does descened" - a metaphor for human life? A joyful poem brining everyone joy. The fact the field is "echoing" indicates that this scene, like the season of spring, has happened before and will happen again in the future. Sense of melancholy at end - the "echoing" green becomes the "darkening" green. There will always be young people to celebrate their joy in this world; but every young child eventually matures into an adult like "Old John" who must content himself with memories while others dance the dance of life.
  • The Chimney Sweeper (Innocence) - "little Tom Dacre" has a very different childhood to those in the countryside.Children are not expected to play in the urban sprawl, but to work. The only relief they find from this urban lifestyle is in their dreams. 
  • London - Blake expresses his disdain for the urban sprawl of post-Industrial Revolution London. It is as if a system has been created specifically to destroy all that is good in humankind. The reader is urged to seek refuge from the worlds ill in a more rural setting, a world where people are free, not "mark'd" and restrained. 
3 of 5

Imagination Over Reason

  • The Little Girl Lost (Experience) - Blake envisions a futurue in which the Earth has been unbound from the chains of reason and seeks her creator. The eponymous lost girl, "lovely Lyca" represents the human soul lost "in desert wild". When she falls asleep she finds the beginning of her own paradise. Each stanza follows an AABB rhyme scheme with the word "asleep" or "sleep" making up many of the rhymes through frequent repition. The sibilance of these words contributes to the dreamlike quality of the poem.
  • The Chimney Sweeper (Innocence) - "little Tom Dacre" can only escape from the cruel world through his dreams and imagination.
4 of 5

Oppression

  • London - The poem follows an ABAB rhyme scheme with little deviation from iambic tetrameter. Only "Mind forg'd manacles" and lines 14-15 are irregularly stressed. This rigidness adds to the claustrophobic tone. Some of these manacles, he believes, are the moral and religious sanctions exerted by the organized Church. As an institution it is given the condemning label of “black’ning” which demonstrates the Church’s corruption of God. Where Blake believed that God was a loving and benevolent being, the Church has used Him as a device to suppress the people. It has advocated that everyone should accept their suffering with the promise of a reward in paradise. It has also condoned the exploitation of child labour – “the Chimney-sweeper’s cry.” Both actions are shown to be opposite to the original Christian message of love for all and charity for the poverty-stricken.
  • The Garden of Love - "Garden of Love" chapel", governed by laws and prohibitions which succeeded in turning Eden into a graveyard. Religion is repressive and jugdemental - "the gates of this chapel were shut" - still applicable today (gay marriage only legalised in 2013). Blake's strip people of their "joys and desires" - Blake in favour of free love. Religion=tyrannical - the narrator witnesses priests "walking their rounds".
5 of 5

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all William Blake resources »