Songs of Innocence and Experience

William Blake



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Summary/Overview

Songs of Innocence and Experience are actually two collections of poetry by William Blake. He published the Songs of Innocence, a collection of 19 poems showing the ways the human spirit will blossom and grow when it is given free will, in 1789 and five years later he published the Songs of Experience. In this collection of 26 poems he contrasts the Songs of Innocence and he shows how the human spirit withers and dies when it is forced to conform to rules and other limitations. Two examples of the contrast between the collections comes with The Lamb and The Tyger. In the Lamb, an innocent lamb is portrayed and is told to have been made by God. In The Tyger, a fearsome and vicious tiger is described and is also told to have been made by God. The poems show a contrast in the power of the animals and the mood represented in both poems reflects the power of the animal within it. Blake uses these poems as an allegory of real life innocences and experiences.





Symbols

Considering that William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience is a collection of many poems it is only natural that there are plenty of symbols. By the nature of a collection I will look at each of these poems individually for symbols.

"Infant Joy"

This poem only has one main symbol -- joy. There is a saying that says "ignorance is bliss," that is the central idea of this poem and helps portray that. By the child in this poem being a newborn he/she has not had the chance to experience the world and the horrid sadness that comes with it, and, therefore, the child is joyful, "I happy am, Joy is my name." This symbolizes the feeling of being innocent for, since the child is newborn, he/she represents joy. This seems to be a naive approach to birth for the assumption that the child would like

"Infant Sorrow"
Contrary to Infant Joy, Infant Sorrow is about a more realistic look on birth.


Characters

"The Lamb": The speaker is an innocent and playful child who like riddles. The speaker is also inexperienced and naive.
"The Tyger": The speaker of this poem is hard to pin down, but is very critical of the world and has a view of the world no one else has. 




Theme



A single theme runs throughout each of Blake's two collections of poems. The transition from innocence to experience is expressed in several ways through several pieces of work. In the Songs of Experience collection, Blake illustrates how a person will transition and grow when they are given their own free will. In Blake's other collection, Songs of Experience, he writes poems that contradict the poems in Songs of Innocence. The poems express that a person dies metaphysically when he is constricted to rules or not allowed to be their own person with their own free will.