Songs of Innocence and of Experience by William Blake

Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Songs of Experience is a 1794 poetry collection of 26 poems forming the second part of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Some of the poems, such as The Little Boy Lost and The Little Boy Found were moved by Blake to Songs of Innocence, and were frequently moved between the two books.[citation needed]In this collection of poems, Blake contrasts Songs of...

Title:Songs of Innocence and of Experience
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Edition Language:English

Songs of Innocence and of Experience Reviews

  • Bradley

    Well, one lousy review can't do Blake's poems any justice, not unless you're flush with time and the soul of a poet, yourself. :)

    I can say, however, that the title kinda gives the whole gig away. :) The first section is rife with allusions to Jesus and the second is full of wry and rather sarcastic religious revolutionary insights that I *clearly* appreciate much more than the innocent ones. :)

    Yes, love should be shown! No, life should not be this dreary and repressed thing. :)

    I particularly l

    Well, one lousy review can't do Blake's poems any justice, not unless you're flush with time and the soul of a poet, yourself. :)

    I can say, however, that the title kinda gives the whole gig away. :) The first section is rife with allusions to Jesus and the second is full of wry and rather sarcastic religious revolutionary insights that I *clearly* appreciate much more than the innocent ones. :)

    Yes, love should be shown! No, life should not be this dreary and repressed thing. :)

    I particularly love how Blake uses limited PoV narrations, from a little child or an old bard. The mirroring of both characters and themes really does a big number on both types of poetry. I only wish I was reading it with the engravings. :)

    Such classics! Well worth the Experience. Everyone should Experience it. :)

  • Lit Bug

    My first brush with Blake was through the impeccable poem

    more than a decade back. Since then, I'd got to read more poems of his, all carefully chosen by the academicians, quickly putting him in my list of favorite poets. Then before I reached my twenties, I read this little collection, and liked it immensely.

    was what I was looking for, with its naïve outlook on life, the idyllic pictures of innocence I was unwilling to leave behind on my trek to youth. I was enamored (

    My first brush with Blake was through the impeccable poem

    more than a decade back. Since then, I'd got to read more poems of his, all carefully chosen by the academicians, quickly putting him in my list of favorite poets. Then before I reached my twenties, I read this little collection, and liked it immensely.

    was what I was looking for, with its naïve outlook on life, the idyllic pictures of innocence I was unwilling to leave behind on my trek to youth. I was enamored (and still am) by the introductory piece:

    To me, this was that drop of amnesiac honey that helped me get over the agony of the house-shifting we'd done that summer more than a decade ago, from a lush green safe township in the corner of the city to a closer-to-the-city, concrete-laden, greenery-starved, space-crunched area. It wasn't all that bad either, as I discovered later, but none of the former beauty of greeting the morning sun flanked by luxurious trees amidst the warbling of a dozen different birds remained. Suddenly, I was waking up to a harsh sun with no shady trees, and hardly any birds. Gone were the little gardens that every small home had. Now we had a larger home, with barely any space for even potted plants, let alone a garden.

    So yeah, poets like Wordsworth and Blake with their lyrical beauty and pastoral happy images and bleak city images were very much resonant with me.

    Now so many years later, while retaining my nostalgia for that magical place that had been my h(e)aven for many years, I am better capable of judging this collection from a newer perspective - one that has been shaped by reading many more poems since then, and has also gotten over the shift from innocence to experience, and values both equally.

    The first section of the collection,

    , now seems to me too simplistic with little exquisite craftsmanship that Wordsworth or Coleridge or even Browning still retains for me. They sound more like little elementary rhyming structures instead of that breath-taking exhilaration I want when I expect nostalgia to sweep over me.

    Only occasionally do I see those powerful streaks of thought, as in the little piece

    :

    , however, fared better. There were glimmers of the pain that comes with experience, but also a sense of enlightenment that you wouldn't exchange for anything in the world, not even that former unblemished and profound innocence. But those bright powerful streaks ended soon, like a comet - blink-and-miss. I liked only 4 poems out of them all, but they are among those I often like to read frequently for their common-sense and quaint charm, such as 'Tyger', with its gripping structure and short lines,

    Or

    :

    or

    , which was a simple but beautiful piece.

    But

    by far remains my favorite, and I quote it here in full:

    ----------------------------------------------

    Overall, I'm rather disappointed. Not only has a childhood favorite collection become a 3-star average affair now, but Blake, as a whole, has come a few steps down the tier. When I started over this book today, I'd expected to be blown over with brilliant images of innocence and experience, but the time has passed rather dully, but thankfully, briefly. The only saving grace is that I still love my old favorite pieces still, especially 'London'. Blake has become a little bleak for me now, but I still cherish the times he gave me, those little shiny lyrics that once upon a time brightened my moods with fond memories of a home I would never return to, of a garden that was no longer mine, of an innocence I was beginning to shed in favor of experience.

  • Florencia

    The smile of a child. The face of a lamb. The purity of maternal love. Solidarity. These are images chosen by Blake to convey his thoughts on innocence. When I think of innocence, I cannot help picturing in my head the greenest mead

    The smile of a child. The face of a lamb. The purity of maternal love. Solidarity. These are images chosen by Blake to convey his thoughts on innocence. When I think of innocence, I cannot help picturing in my head the greenest meadows, sheltered by the warm light of the sun, and the sound of a nearby river serving as a mirror to reflect your own thoughts. Such an idyllic setting is an invitation to contemplate your own soul. For me, the countryside is where anything can happen. I feel hopeful. I find rest. I make time stand still; I see bliss. And I accept the countryside's cruelty on a dark, rainy day. That is the inevitable dichotomy of any form of life.

    Innocence. To see the world through the eyes of a child. Something so necessary, and so distant. Something that we lose too soon, now.

    Simply too soon.

    Different perspectives. The pain of adulthood. The fight between love and selfishness. The corruption of innocence and our salvation. Our preservation: the world will not eat us alive—apparently. The fear of what is to come. Of the unknown. The gray despair of aging. These are some of the images of Blake's Experience.

    The lyrical voice of this fine poet stands out for its apparent simplicity. Blake knew his surroundings too well. He was aware of the social and political situation of his time as well as the spiritual concerns of human beings. And he transferred them to his pages to make them immortal. His sensitive and evocative poetry can conquer the most anxious soul and give it an ideal place to rest for a while.

    Jul 30, 14

    * Also on

    .

  • Mike Puma

    A review, of sorts, may be found in Message 1.

  • Kimi

    That moment when your favorite Tv Show makes you read Romantic poetry of the 18th century.

  • Bookdragon Sean

    Out of all the poetry I have read, these four lines are amongst my favourite. They have stuck with me over several years and seem to resonate within me. I’ve even considered having them tattooed onto my arm. Why these lines? You may ask.

    It’s simple really: they say so much. Different readings can be made here, but the one I see most strongly is man talking to nature. Man questions it; he asks if he is the same as nature and if nature is t

    Out of all the poetry I have read, these four lines are amongst my favourite. They have stuck with me over several years and seem to resonate within me. I’ve even considered having them tattooed onto my arm. Why these lines? You may ask.

    It’s simple really: they say so much. Different readings can be made here, but the one I see most strongly is man talking to nature. Man questions it; he asks if he is the same as nature and if nature is the same as him. Is not the fly equal to him? Is not the fly’s life just as valuable as his own? All life is precious, and what I read here is a man coming to the realisation that this is so. Nature is valuable, and no matter how high man may place himself all life remains the same; it is the same force: the same energy. It could also be a bourgeoisie facing a member of the lower class and realising the same thing, but I prefer to stick with the human to animal relationship.

    Nature is huge, the ecosystem is huge. And, again, no matter how high man may place himself he is still just another cog on an ever turning mechanism. In the modern world he has damaged the system, the environment, but he is still part of a greater whole. And his part is no more important than that of the rest of the cogs. What I read in Blake’s words is an ideal, a projection of a semi-paradise; one man can perhaps reach if when he has gained experience he remembers where he came from: his innocence.

    Blake’s poetry is marvellously deceptive; it appears so simple, but that’s the beauty of it. Hidden behind the seemingly innocent childlike songs is a sense of irony, sarcasm and genius. The speakers of the poems describe the world as they see it; it is a mere reflection of their own limited perceptions; they see the world through a childlike and predetermined state. In essence, they see what they are meant to see, and nothing beyond that. Well, not until they gain experience and look back on their own folly. Even at this stage, Blake portrays the duality of the human soul; the two states coexist and inform each other. From this collection of poetry I’m left with the impression that these two stages are necessary for human development, but not exclusively so; it’s like Blake is suggesting that one should be able to see the world as an aspect of both.

    Throughout the poetry Blake also questions the meaning of standard religion and proposes his own ideas of a more natural approach to divinity. He believed that the gods existed within the bosom of man, and not in an exogenous limited interpretation. In this, he is a true Romantic poet. The more poetry I read in this age, the more I come to appreciate this idea. Blake’s poetry stands out amongst the crowd though. He used a completely unique style to get his the two states of the human soul across to the reader. But, again, he reflects the movement; his poems have a heavy emphasis on the freedom of self-expression and can only really be appreciated in conjunction with the plates he engraved them on. He was a true artist:

    Indeed, for me, the comparison between the “Lamb” and the “Tyger” cannot be appreciated without looking at the images. The two poems are not simply about different animal types. They are about good and evil; they are a comparison of the badness and benevolence of humankind. The lamb represents the most profound sense of inexperience; it is innocence and pure: it is docile and vulnerable in its infancy. In this it is comparable to the Christian saviour: it is the best degree of humanity. The Tyger, on the other hand, has a corrupt heart. He represents the negative aspects of humankind, and can be interpreted as part of industrialisation, commerce and power. Through this comparison the narrator of the poems questions how a creator could forge two opposing states. What is the purpose of such a thing?

    When the experience section has been read, it is vital to go back and look at innocence. It changes the nature of the poems, as the implicit becomes explicit. The layers of meaning are multiple and complex. I could spend a day pondering over some of them, but for me the most memorable one is “the fly” for the reasons I discussed: it will always stay with me.

  • Priyanka

    William Blake’s short poems profess a narrative far beyond what actually exists on the page. They communicate with incredible power and economy, smashing to smithereens the false structures of existing beliefs and opinions. His poems are like gravel thrown into a pool, ripples radiating outwards indefinitely, stirring everything they touch.

  • Darwin8u

    Poet Poet, burning bright,

    In the stanzas of the night;

    What romantic coquetry,

    Could frame thy fearful poetry?

    In what distant when or whys,

    roll'd the epic of thine eyes?

    On wet verse dare he aspire?

    What poet's

    , robs Shelly's pyre?

    And what meter, & what art,

    Could twist the cadence of thy heart?

    And when thy heart began to beat,

    What dread iambs? & what dread feet?

    What the motif? what the type,

    In what belly was thy gripe?

    What the image? what simile,

    Dare its

    Poet Poet, burning bright,

    In the stanzas of the night;

    What romantic coquetry,

    Could frame thy fearful poetry?

    In what distant when or whys,

    roll'd the epic of thine eyes?

    On wet verse dare he aspire?

    What poet's

    , robs Shelly's pyre?

    And what meter, & what art,

    Could twist the cadence of thy heart?

    And when thy heart began to beat,

    What dread iambs? & what dread feet?

    What the motif? what the type,

    In what belly was thy gripe?

    What the image? what simile,

    Dare its deadly metaphors be!

    When all critics threw down their pens

    And water'd heaven twixt now and then:

    Did Marx his smile his classes see?

    Did he who made cultural criticism make thee?

    Poet Poet, burning bright,

    In the stanzas of the night;

    What romantic coquetry,

    Could frame thy fearful poetry?

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    I don’t think I would dare give any collection of poems that contains the above lines anything less than five stars. Luckily, although every poem isn’t a winner for me (cough*Laughing Song*cough), there are so many immortal poems in this collection that I don’t feel the least bit guilty for giving the collection the full five stars. I started collecting some of my favorite lines

    I don’t think I would dare give any collection of poems that contains the above lines anything less than five stars. Luckily, although every poem isn’t a winner for me (cough*Laughing Song*cough), there are so many immortal poems in this collection that I don’t feel the least bit guilty for giving the collection the full five stars. I started collecting some of my favorite lines to put in this review (not even the whole poem in many cases), and when I got to three pages in Word I realized I would have to restrain myself from posting half the collection in this review. This review is still going to be on the long side, but you’ll have to just deal. :)

    William Blake, one of the most well-known authors of the Romantic era, published this short collection of poems or songs in the late 1700s. The full title was “Songs of Innocence and of Experience Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul,” which aptly describes the dichotomy echoed in most of these poems, with innocent Christian belief and pastoral joy in the foreground in the nineteen Songs of Innocence, and dark cynicism, criticism of man’s institutions (including churches), and even despair playing a more prominent role in the twenty-seven Songs of Experience. In fact, many of the poems in the Innocence set have their darker counterpart in the Experience set. So you go from “The Lamb”:

    to “The Tyger”:

    Even in the more lighthearted Songs of Innocence, more often than not there’s a dark undercurrent, a hint (or sometimes a slap across the face) that the narrator of the poem is being unintentionally ironic:

    That last line is a heartbreaker. Even though the black boy sees that the white child is equally under a cloud, he still can’t imagine being accepted by him until he looks like him.

    Similarly, we have “The Chimney Sweeper,” where the young boys sold by their destitute families to be chimney sweepers’ assistants ― a terrible, cold, dirty job ― aptly cry “weep” in their childish lisps instead of "sweep":

    Such an indictment of those who mistreat children and the less fortunate among us!

    This next one has stuck with my since I studied it in college. Even if you have Christian beliefs (as I do), you have to admit that the institutions of churches have often been misused by those in power. The last lines are haunting:

    Notice how the meter and rhyme change in those last two lines ― there’s something inexorable about it.

    A few more: I appreciate the insight into the effects of anger and grudges offered by “A Poison Tree”:

    And the stultifying strictures and chains of society get a knock in “London”:

    I’ll go back to the Songs of Innocence to end on a more hopeful note:

    I highly recommend this collection, and you can find copies of it free all over the web.

    A couple of notes on bonus material: When this book was originally published, each poem was handwritten by Blake on a separate page with an original painting that he did to go with that poem. For example:

    They're worth looking up, and often add to understanding of the meaning or intent of the poem.

    Also, many of these "Songs of Innocence and of Experience" actually were songs: at least some of them were set to music. As far as I'm aware none of the original tunes used by Blake have survived, but different people since have tried their hand at setting some of them to music, with varying results. Wikipedia links several of these modern song versions of the poems. I haven't checked them out yet, but if I find any good ones I'll link them here.

    5 down, 19 to go.

  • Michael Finocchiaro

    I adore William Blake's poetry and this illustrated collection is fantastic. Unlike other British poets from centuries back (like John Donne for example), his text is usually far easier to read even without a thesaurus and always delightful and full of imagery. a Must!


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