Songs of Innocence and of Experience Shewing the Two


  • Paperback
  • 56 pages
  • Songs of Innocence and of Experience Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul
  • William Blake
  • English
  • 09 July 2014
  • 9781420925807

10 thoughts on “Songs of Innocence and of Experience Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul

  1. Ilse(on semi-hiatus) Ilse(on semi-hiatus) says:

    Two contrary states of the human soul The moon like a flowerIn Heavens high bower;With silent delightSits and smiles on the nightNightAt times the weight of the reputation of an artist is that intimidating I can barely overcome trepidation to venture into approaching his or her work William Blake is such an artist So when this lovely little book arrived in the letter box as a birthday present it felt like a sweet little heartening push giving me the courage to dive into the refreshing water of the unknown holding the promise of a thrilling encounter with the imagination of supreme mind Unsure what to expect and what those two parts – innocence and experience – would stand for making Blake’s acuaintance was a highly rewarding reading experience I cannot really compare to any other I had before From innocence which seems mostly the one of childhood symbolised by scenes on infants children a shepherd mothers in a pastoral setting the transition to experience is evocated by a darkening mood and tone in which consciousness rises of the adult world in which danger menace anxiety undeniably will encumber happiness and joy and where comfort is hard to find – for adults nor for children The powerful imagery is replete with fauna and flora happiness and joy take the shape of a sparrow a lamb a robin a grasshopper a rose spring green fields sweet sleep Revolving to experience a child is hungry sweet flowers in the Garden of Love have changed into graves and tombstones youthfulness dissolves the narrative voice bemoans the multitudinous forms of human woe and suffering in London ‘The mind forg’d manacles I hear’ A rose is tainted at the core A mighty tiger roars reminding of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans characterizing the religious experience of transcendence At the first read I was particularly enthralled by the compelling sublime musicality of the rhymes and the dynamics of the verses it is thought that Blake set several of the verses to his own tunes no scores have survived however These are poems one can imagine a joy to learn and know by heart In a second read now having read the illuminating introduction which gives insight into the patterns of ‘contrary’ or answering poems in both parts of the book and the contrasts existing within the poems themselves pointing at the the puzzling ambiguities the contrary energies flowing through the poems the angle of the brilliant mirroring interconnectivity of the composition was a delightful one and I can easily imagine a third read will unveil other aspects The beauteous edition I read draws on the version sold by his wife Catherine Boucher to the Bishop of Limerick in 1830 which ended up into the hands of EM Forster offering it to King’s College Cambridge – on the left page a literal transcription of each poem is printed on the right page a reproduction of the original illustrated plate the designs are not just for embellishment of the poems but intrinsically part of Blake’s poetic imagination Absorbing the combination of both the words and the uaint images of Blake’s ‘illuminated printing’ at the same time proved ineffectual for me at the first read so this gem volunteered as a new nightstand companion At the moment it might be mostly obscure to me but perhaps the complex and mysterious meanings of the verses will further show upon rereading and exploring Blake in depth Youth of delight come hitherAnd see the opening mornImage of Truth new bornDoubt is fled and clouds of reasonDark disputes and artful teazingFolly is an endless maze;Tangled roots perplex her ways;How many have fallen thereThey stumble all night over bones of the dead;And feel—they know not what but care;And wish to lead others when they should be ledThe Voice of the Ancient Bard


  2. Sean Barrs Sean Barrs says:

    “Am not IA fly like thee?Or art not thouA man like me?” 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 askIt’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 uestions it; he asks if he is the same as nature and if nature is the same as him Is not the fly eual 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 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 uestions the meaning of standard religion and proposes his own ideas of a 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 poetry I read in this age the I come to appreciate this idea Blake’s poetry stands out amongst the crowd though He used a completely uniue 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 Tyger Tyger burning bright In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? 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 uestions 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


  3. Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥ Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥ says:

    I have to admit that I rarely read poetry not because I don’t want to but mostly because my library usually doesn’t have the kind of poetry that I long for So imagine my surprise when I found this little new gem in between one of my beloved and already so very familiar bookshelves It was love at first sight and I don’t regret anything 3 ”O Rose thou art sickThe invisible wormThat flies in the nightIn the howling stormHas found out thy bedOf crimson joyAnd his dark secret loveDoes thy life destroy” The Sick RoseWilliam Blake is definitely one of my favourite poets and I can recommend this to everyone who doesn’t only like his poetry but also appreciates his art PS A Poison Tree The Tyger and London are really good as well ;


  4. Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ says:

    Tyger Tyger burning bright In the forests of the night What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?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 coughLaughing Songcough 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 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”Little Lamb who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? Little Lamb I'll tell thee Little Lamb I'll tell thee He is called by thy name For he calls himself a Lamb He is meek he is mild; He became a little child I a child thou a lamb We are called by his nameto “The Tyger”When the stars threw down their spears And water'd heaven with their tears Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?Even in the lighthearted Songs of Innocence 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 ironicThe Little Black BoyMy mother bore me in the southern wild And I am black but O my soul is white; White as an angel is the English child But I am black as if bereav'd of light And thus I say to little English boy When I from black and he from white cloud free And round the tent of God like lambs we joy I'll shade him from the heat till he can bear To lean in joy upon our father's knee; And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair And be like him and he will then love meThat last line is a heartbreaker Even though the black boy sees that the white child is eually under a cloud he still can’t imagine being accepted by him until he looks like himSimilarly 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 sweepWhen my mother died I was very young And my father sold me while yet my tongue Could scarcely cry 'weep 'weep 'weep 'weep So your chimneys I sweep in soot I sleep There's little Tom Dacre who cried when his head That curl'd like a lamb's back was shav'd so I said Hush Tom never mind it for when you head's bare You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hairAnd so he was uiet that very night As Tom was a sleeping he had such a sight That thousands of sweepers Dick Joe Ned Jack Were all of them lock'd up in coffins of black And by came an Angel who had a bright key And he open'd the coffins set them free; Then down a green plain leaping laughing they run And wash in a river and shine in the Sun Then naked white all their bags left behind They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind; And the Angel told Tom if he'd be a good boy He'd have God for his father never want joy And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark And got with our bags our brushes to work Tho the morning was cold Tom was happy warm So if all do their duty they need not fear harmSuch an indictment of those who mistreat children and the less fortunate among usThis 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 “The Garden of Love”I went to the Garden of Love And saw what I never had seen A Chapel was built in the midst Where I used to play on the green And the gates of this Chapel were shut And “Thou shalt not” writ over the door; So I turn'd to the Garden of Love That so many sweet flowers bore; And I saw it was filled with graves And tomb stones where flowers should be; And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds And binding with briars my joys desires Notice how the meter and rhyme change in those last two lines ― there’s something inexorable about itA few I appreciate the insight into the effects of anger and grudges offered by “A Poison Tree”I was angry with my friend I told my wrath my wrath did end I was angry with my foe I told it not my wrath did grow And I water'd it in fears Night morning with my tears; And I sunned it with smiles And with soft deceitful wiles And it grew both day and night Till it bore an apple bright; And my foe beheld it shine And he knew that it was mine And into my garden stole When the night had veil'd the pole In the morning glad I see My foe outstretch'd beneath the treeAnd the stultifying strictures and chains of society get a knock in “London”I wander thro' each charter'd street Near where the charter'd Thames does flow And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness marks of woe In every cry of every Man In every Infant's cry of fear In every voice in every ban The mind forg'd manacles I hearI’ll go back to the Songs of Innocence to end on a hopeful note “On Another's Sorrow”Can I see another's woe And not be in sorrow too? Can I see another's grief And not seek for kind relief? Can I see a falling tear And not feel my sorrow's share? Can a father see his child Weep nor be with sorrow fill'd? He doth give his joy to all; He becomes an infant small; He becomes a man of woe; He doth feel the sorrow too Think not thou canst sigh a sigh And thy maker is not by; Think not thou canst weep a tear And thy maker is not near O he gives to us his joy That our grief he may destroy; Till our grief is fled gone He doth sit by us and moanI highly recommend this collection and you can find copies of it free all over the webA 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 exampleThey're worth looking up and often add to understanding of the meaning or intent of the poemAlso 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 here2016 Classic Bingo Challenge 5 down 19 to go


  5. Darwin8u Darwin8u says:

    Billy Blake Who Made Thee? Poet Poet burning bright In the stanzas of the night; What romantic couetry 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 hand robs Shelly's pyre?And what meter what artCould twist the cadence of thy heart?And when thy heart began to beatWhat 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 couetry Dare frame thy fearful poetry?


  6. Florencia Florencia says:

    Folly is an endless maze;Tangled roots perplex her ways;How many have fallen thereThey stumble all night over bones of the dead;And feel — they know not what but care;And wish to lead others when they should be led William Blake The Voice of the Ancient BardThe 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 lifeInnocence To see the world through the eyes of a child Something so necessary and so distant Something that we lose too soon nowSimply too soonLaughing SongWhen the green woods laugh with the voice of joyAnd the dimpling stream runs laughing by;When the air does laugh with our merry witAnd the green hill laughs with the noise of it;When the meadows laugh with lively greenAnd the grasshopper laughs in the merry scene;When Mary and Susan and EmilyWith their sweet round mouths sing 'Ha ha he'When the painted birds laugh in the shadeWhere our table with cherries and nuts is spreadCome live and be merry and join with meTo sing the sweet chorus of 'Ha ha he' 10NightThe sun descending in the WestThe evening star does shine;The birds are silent in their nestAnd I must seek for mineThe moon like a flowerIn heaven's high bowerWith silent delightSits and smiles on the nightFarewell green fields and happy grovesWhere flocks have took delightWhere lambs have nibbled silent movesThe feet of angels bright;Unseen they pour blessingAnd joy without ceasingOn each bud and blossomAnd each sleeping bosom 14Different 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 Clod and the Pebble'Love seeketh not itself to pleaseNor for itself hath any careBut for another gives its easeAnd builds a heaven in hell's despair'So sung a little clod of clayTrodden with the cattle's feetBut a pebble of the brookWarbled out these metres meet'Love seeketh only Self to pleaseTo bind another to its delightJoys in another's loss of easeAnd builds a hell in heaven's despite' 23Ah sunflowerAh sunflower weary of timeWho countest the steps of the sun;Seeking after that sweet golden climeWhere the traveller's journey is done;Where the Youth pined away with desireAnd the pale virgin shrouded in snowArise from their graves and aspireWhere my Sunflower wishes to go 36LondonI wander through each chartered streetNear where the chartered Thames does flowA mark in every face I meetMarks of weakness marks of woeIn every cry of every manIn every infant's cry of fearIn every voice in every banThe mind forged manacles I hearHow the chimney sweeper's cryEvery blackening church appalsAnd the hapless soldier's sighRuns in blood down palace wallsBut most through midnight streets I hearHow the youthful harlot's curseBlasts the new born infant's tearAnd blights with plagues the marriage hearse 40The 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 conuer the most anxious soul and give it an ideal place to rest for a whileJul 30 14 Also on my blog


  7. Bradley Bradley says:

    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 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


  8. Michael Finocchiaro Michael Finocchiaro says:

    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


  9. Lit Bug Lit Bug says:

    My first brush with Blake was through the impeccable poem London than a decade back Since then I'd got to read poems of his all carefully chosen by the academicians uickly putting him in my list of favorite poets Then before I reached my twenties I read this little collection and liked it immensely Songs of Innocence 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 enad and still am by the introductory piece view spoilerPiping down the valleys wild Piping songs of pleasant glee On a cloud I saw a child And he laughing said to me Pipe a song about a Lamb; So I piped with merry chear Piper pipe that song again— So I piped he wept to hear Drop thy pipe thy happy pipe Sing thy songs of happy chear So I sung the same again While he wept with joy to hearPiper sit thee down and write In a book that all may read— So he vanish'd from my sight And I pluck'd a hollow reed And I made a rural pen And I stain'd the water clear And I wrote my happy songs Every child may joy to hear hide spoiler


  10. Ikram Ikram says:

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


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Songs of Innocence and of Experience Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul Songs of Innocence and of Experience is an illustrated collection of poems by William Blake It appeared in two phases A few first copies were printed and illuminated by William Blake himself in 1789; five years later he bound these poems with a set of new poems in a volume titled 


About the Author: William Blake

William Blake was an English poet painter and printmaker Largely unrecognised during his lifetime Blake's work is today considered seminal and significant in the history of both poetry and the visual artsBlake's prophetic poetry has been said to form what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the language His visual artistry has led one modern critic to proclaim h