Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Blake Recalls Innocence and Experience Essay Example for Free
Blake Recalls Innocence and Experience Essay When attempting to penetrate into the deeper themes of William Blakes cycle of poems Songs of Innocence and Experience it can be useful to recognize that the title of the poems, as well as the subsequent division into sections of innocence and experience carries ironic connotations. Blakes intention in this cycle of poems, which he subtitled Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul (Ostriker, 1977, p. 104) was to posit the relationship of individual freedom and self-determination as being at one with Divine Will. Therefore, the state of innocence which is referred to in the cycles title as well as in the division of poems itself is meant to suggest not ignorance which leads to innocence but the innocence which is gained (or reclaimed) by the experience of the Divine. In fact the first poem in the innocence cycle, Introduction makes plainly manifest, Blakes ironic use of the titular connotations of innocence and experience. The poems second stanza reads: Pipe a song about a Lamb; So I piped with merry chear, Piper pipe that song again So I piped, he wept to hear (Ostriker, 1977, p. 104) The subtlety of Blakes theme here is so accomplished as to be almost invisible when one reads the lines without carefully probing each word for its connotations. Special attention must be given to each word-choice to extract from the sing-song pleasantness of the poem, the resounding and profound thematic ideas which lay beneath the poems surface. The word Lamb for example is capitalized not only to emphasize the mythic and religious ideas which are an intimate part of Christian symbolism, but to inform the reader that Lamb is, indeed, the theme of the entire poem. The repeating of the word piped is intended to show that the Divine voice is always trying to break through to humanity; the line So I piped, he wept to hear reveals that this song of innocence is, in fact, a song of experience: the knowledge that humanity is blind to, or in this case, deaf to, the Divine voice. While Blake emphasizes a state of idealism in his Songs of Innocence and Experience nowhere does he proffer the idea of passive acceptance of the worlds injustices or pain. In fact, passivity to the worlds suffering is defined not in the poems of innocence but in a poem of experience where Blakes verdict on the lack of empathy in the modern world could be made no more certain or clear. His poem London is a lament for precisely this idea of passive acceptance of world injustice and suffering: In ever cry of every man, In every Infants cry f fear, In very voice; in every ban, The mind-forgd manacles I hear (Ostriker, 1977, 128). In these lines, the capitalized word Infants denotes a connection to the Lamb of th other poems: in Blakes Songs of Innocence and Experience the lamb and the child are both symbols of the individuated self, and also of the Divine Will, which Blake, as mentioned, attempts to unify in his poetry. (Ostriker). The phrase mind-forgd manacles is important because it shows how a lack of empathy and compassion or even concern for the worlds troubles is a function of ignorance, of a bad kind of innocence a worldly oblivion, which stands in sharp contrast to Blakes idealized state of Divine innocence which is often frustrated by the materiality of ignorance of the world, but is nevertheless, an inheritance, according to Blake, which is due to every living individual on earth. The attainment of a state of ideal innocence in Blake denotes a state of self-awareness and self-identity which steps outside of the concerns of material wealth and social standing and relies purely upon the human heart as its gauge of success and its proximity to the Divine as a measure of its truth. Reference Ostriker, Alicia. 1977. William Blake: The Complete Poems. Penguin Books, New York.