AQA Pastoral Literature (A2) - Blake key quotes, summaries, context, form, structure, language and concerns!

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  • Created by: MJ
  • Created on: 03-06-13 17:43

William Blake

The man:

·         A printer before a writer, hence the amount of engravings next to his work and why a lot of critics hold him in high regards from not being a traditional pastoral writer with the same education. Although, he did study at The Royal Academy of Arts.

·         Blake often had visions throughout his life and saw himself as a prophet.

·         Blake’s main concern is that of the Poetic Genius: man’s natural creativity and valued it above higher regards to logic, which he often saw as restrictive to natural thought.

·         Every religious concept is derived from the Poetic Genius and so, he believed all religions were one.

The Time

Blake wrote (mainly) during the 18th century during a time of Industrialisation, Enlightenment and Romanticism which is a lot of ideas for one period of time.

The Industrial Revolution:

Cities like London saw a massive population increase due to machinery replacing the jobs of labourers, who then moved to the cities for work. The cities were dirty and crowded from factories and their workers.

The Age of Enlightement: A cultural movement which saw rational thought and science replace traditional religious and superstitious paradigms.

Romanticism: A cultural movement rebelling against Enlightement. Romanticism focused on feelings, creativity and mainly the imagination. Blake was a Romantic figure.

Songs of Experience


SUMMARY: A worm destroys a rose (this is a symbolic poem).

FORM: Lyrical ballad

LANGUAGE: symbolic, metaphor, negative imagery

STRUCTURE: 2 small stanzas, “destroy” ends the poem

PASTORAL CONCERNS: corruption, innocence,

IMAGE: A bended rose (bent towards darkness) with two figures holding themselves on the branches in a pained fashion.

KEY QUOTES: ‘the invisible worm’, ‘bed of crimson joy’, ‘does thy life destroy’, ‘dark secret love’, ‘howling storm’



SUMMARY: Blake describes a city full of repression and corruption.

FORM: Lyrical poem

LANGUAGE:  Rhymed stanza, repetition,  negative imagery,

STRUCTURE: Four stanzas, ‘hearse’ ends the poem

PASTORAL CONCERNS: Memento mori, corruption,  (a lack of) tranquillity and innocence

IMAGE: A child leading an old man from the shadows into light (but there are shadows on the light side too)

KEY QUOTES: “chartr’d Thames’, ‘charter’d streets’, ‘marriage Hearse’, ‘in the cry of every man’, ‘marks of weakness, marks of woe’, ‘blackning’ , ‘hapless soldiers cry runs in  blood down palace walls’, ‘the mind-forg’d manacles I hear’

Songs of Innocence


SUMMARY: The speaker leaves his shepherd role after being approached by a cherub. He becomes a writer, or the “the bard”.

FORM: Lyrical poem

LANGUAGE: repetition,  idyllic imagery

STRUCTURE: Four heroic stanzas

PASTORAL CONCERNS: The idyll, the shepherd, innocence, religion, tranquillity

IMAGE:  Figure looking to cherub in sky, which trees grow towards, making the top half of the image darker. There are interweaving vines at the side of the poem, which contain images of people.

KEY QUOTES: ‘Piping’, ‘rural pen’, ‘stained the water clear’, ‘on a cloud I saw a child’, ‘Lamb’ .

The Ecchoing Green

SUMMARY: Children play on a green whilst adults look at them and remember their youth.

FORM: Lyrical Poem

LANGUAGE: Contrast, positive imagery, rhyming couplets

STRUCTURE: 3 stanzas, morning afternoon and night, cyclical,

PASTORAL CONCERNS: Nostalgia, memento mori, innocence, the idyll, the Golden Age

IMAGE:  One above the first stanza and half of the second: Mothers and children playing

One with other half and last stanza: No more play, darker, pointing man

KEY QUOTES: ‘The sun does arise/And make happy the skies’,  ‘the darkening green’, ‘sky lark and thrush’, ‘Old John with white hair’, ‘among the old folk’, ‘and sport no more seen’



This is honestly really detailed and helps a lot, thank you, if only you had songs of Innocence too!


Thanks a bunch, James! I'm just doing the ones that I'll be writing about in the exams and I didn't think this was that details ahah! If you're doing the pastoral I also have notes on the Poems (1300-1800) and Brideshead Revisted! :)


PS: There are 2 Songs of Innocence Poems up there ^ :)


Useful contextual information and then a brief synopsis and summation of each poem; useful when first reading the poems and looking for a way in in terms of analysis. This is a starting point for a more in depth analysis of each poem.


thankyou !!!

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