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William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience

“Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience” is a collection of short lyric poems accompanied by Blake’s original illustrations. It is written in a delusive simple style with children’s verse.

The production of Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience happened over a period of 35 years. Blake was his own publisher. Most scholars think that the first section of the text, Songs of Innocence, was written and published in 1789. Later Blake combined this section with the second one, Songs of Experience.

The poems in both sections are about the opposition between the innocent, joyous view of the child and the more experienced, less spontaneous, view of the adult. Blake creates a dichotomy between desires and wishes on one hand and responsibilities and duties on the other hand, always giving the privilege to the imaginative rather than rational. Although children are the subject of songs in two sections, their misery or happiness is determined by their relationships with the adults, who control their lives.

The experience group of poems is filled with images of limitation and containment boundary that are imposed by parents or authorities on the lives of young people. Even though the poems in two sections are supposed to contrast each other as the states of human condition, the individual poems contain discontinuities, as though of much harsher view of life drawn in the second section. Mistrust and suspicion of authority – religious, parental, or political – and the power they impose is an important theme throughout the work.

The contrasts set by Blake in songs are echoes of English society’s approach to the social and political issues of the era. That time is characterized on the one hand by anxiety regarding the potential outcomes of that freedom for social establishments. Some of the poems directly address some of the modern social problems, like child labor. The most fully realized social protest in the Songs is represented by the poem “London”, a critique of misery and urban poverty.

Critical debate surrounds the categorization of Blake’s poetry in the Romantic period. Pagliaro says that Blake not only took part in the era’s infatuation for morality, but actually went beyond his contemporaries in clasping vulnerability to death. Critics believe it was Blake’s aim to meet the challenge presented by such a dismal view on the world. Some scholars don’t agree at all that Blake was a Romantic poet and rank his work to the tradition of an earlier literary period.

“Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience” is a collection of short lyric poems accompanied by Blake’s original illustrations. It is written in a delusive simple style with children’s verse.

The production of Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience happened over a period of 35 years. Blake was his own publisher.

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June 27, 2016
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June 28, 2016
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