Blake expresses his views, about society in his day and its institutions such as the church, parenting, child labour and industrialisation vs nature. He does this using his poetry ‘songs of innocence and experience’ the poems which discuss these themes include the Laughing Song, The Garden of Love, The Lamb, The Tiger, Infant Joy, Infant Sorrow, The Chimney Sweeper and The Chimney Sweeper. Blake use’s various techniques in his poems to highlight the issues of his society. The enlightenment was a period of European history spanning the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
It was a huge period of social, economic and conceptual change. Ordinary working people found more opportunities for work, in the new mills and factories, but these were often under strict working conditions, with long hours of labour dominated by a pace set by machines. This was the industrial revolution. Pre-industrial society didn’t change and was often cruel-child labour, dirty living conditions and long working hours were just as common before the Industrial Revolution. This stayed the same for many years. William Blake was born in Golden Square, London on November 28, 1757 and died on August 12, 1827.
He was born into a middle-class family. He was the third of seven children, who consisted of one girl and six boys, two of which died in infancy. Blake’s father, James made tights for a living. Blake never attended school, he was taught at home by his mother. The Bible was an early and profound influence on Blake, and was a large source of inspiration. He was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. He wasn’t so famous for his poetry until he died. He first wrote the poems of ‘innocence’ then later on he did a second part to each poem which he called ‘experience’. Together these made the ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’.
Blake chose to live in London for the majority of his life, which was during the industrial revolution, he was concerned about the effects that industry and pollution had on his society. In his collection of poetry the ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’ he talks about nature vs industrialisation. You can see this in ‘Laughing Song’, which is a song of innocence. In this he also uses childhood as a theme as well as nature vs industrialisation. The poem has a rhyming structure, the first stanza is, a b c c, the second is, a a b b, then the last stanza is the same as the first, a b c c.
By using repetition in this poem, he makes nature and the trees come across as happy, by repeatedly using the word ‘laughs’ in this poem. He uses personification, in the whole first stanza and the first two lines of the other two stanzas, he often refers to ‘joy’, ‘laughing’ and he also writes ‘ha ha he’, which also refers to laughing. ‘The Sick Rose’ by William Blake is a poem of experience. Which is also follows on from the theme of nature vs industrialisation. The rose is a conventional symbol of love and exists as a beautiful object that is infected by a worm. The worm symbolizes death and decay.
Is this case the Worm represents industrialisation invading nature, this is seen in the lines, ‘And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy’ in this case the rose is a metaphor for nature and society. A belief in god and a personal relationship with him is central to Blake’s poetry. You can see this in ‘The Lamb’, which is a song of innocence. In this poem his tone is rejoicing in god’s creations. He uses a rhyming structure of a a b b c c d d e e for both stanzas, he uses rhyming couplets. The first and last line on the second stanza is repeated. In the first stanza he is asking ‘who made you? then in the second stanza he is trying to answer this. He uses repetition of ‘little lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? ‘ this is questioning the reader, does the reader know god? This is also a rhetorical question; he also ends the first stanza with a rhetorical question. In the second stanzas he talks of Jesus, he talks of Jesus being mild and meek. ‘for he calls himself a lamb.
He is meek, and he is mild; he became a child. ‘ Jesus is often referred to as a child in art and a lamb is often seen as innocent and a new life a fresh start in spring. The Garden of Love’ is a song of experience. It has a rhyming structure of a b c b in the first two paragraphs then in the last paragraph, which has no particular rhyming structure to it. The name of the poem is ironic as this poem is about the church and the graveyard a graveyard is a place of death and decay, which is hardly a garden of love. The first stanza is positive it is a reflection of life more to come In ‘Infant Joy,’ Blake’s use of the repetition of the word ‘joy’ helps represent his views on parenting.
This is a song of innocence. It has a rhyming structure of a b c d a c on both stanzas. Infant Joy’, uses a mimetic technique; the poem is a reported dialogue between the child and an adult. This is seen in the first three lines: “‘I have no name; I am but two days old. ‘What shall I call thee? ” The language used in ‘Infant Joy’ is joyful; the word ‘joy’, and the phrases ‘sweet joy’, and ‘pretty joy’ are repeated through the poem. Although this poem is in the form of dialogue, it is the adult who does most of the talking, newborn babies can’t actually talk, and it is the adult who says, “sweet joy I call thee”.
This represents an attempt by an adult to manipulate innocence, as represented by the child. Infant Joy’ uses no figurative language, although the lines in which the infant speaks can be looked at as metaphors. ‘Infant Sorrow’ is a song of experience. It has a rhyming structure of AABB for both stanzas. This poem is narrated from a child’s viewpoint, beginning with the lines “my mother groaned, my father wept! Into the dangerous world I leapt”, the child, tells us about its experiences through the poem. The child describing its own birth as ‘Infant Sorrow’ suggests a traumatic experience, using words such as ‘groaned’, ‘wept’, ‘helpless’, and ‘naked’.
Blake’s uses the child’s viewpoint to draw attention to the unfamiliarity of the world the child has, suggesting that this seems natural and joyful to an adult and is traumatic and painful to the child. ‘Infant Sorrow’ uses the simile “like a fiend hid in a cloud” this is about the child’s energy, and whether it is better to ‘struggle’, or to ‘sulk’. It would not be unusual for an exhausted parent to describe an overactive child as ‘fiendish’; it isn’t likely however that a child would refer to itself in this way.
There is possibly a discrepancy at this point between the narrator’s voice and the poet’s. Blakes view on child labour appears to reflect in ‘The Chimneysweeper’. This is a song of innocence. There are 6 stanzas to this poem and it has a rhyming structure of a a b b. the first paragraph is written in the view of a child. He uses repetition of the word ‘weep’, this is playing with the word ‘sweep’ which is what the chimneysweepers would call down the street when looking for work but in this it also refers to crying.
He uses a simile to make the chimney sweeper boy sound innocent, ‘curl’d like a lambs back’ lambs are often used as a sign of innocence and also ‘white hair’ with white he is referring to blonde but white is also I sign of innocence. He uses the metaphor ‘coffins of black’ to say that children died in the chimneys. He also makes the children seem innocent with alliteration. ‘Leaping, laughing’ this makes me think of innocent young boys playing happily minding there own business. The last line ‘so if all do their duty they need not fear harm’ is ironic as many children were harmed.
In conclusion the 1794 collection ‘Songs of Innocence and of Experience’ showed the two contrary states of the human soul. They show the contrary states by using two parts to each poem they do the ‘innocence’ side looking at the matter in a positive light, then they do a second part ‘experience’ where they look at the negative side of the matter. Blake used his work to express his views on industrialisation, nature, the church, parenting, and child labour. Considering this, Blake’s poems didn’t gain popularity until his later life. William Blake was one of the major romantic poets of England that influenced the romantic poetry movement.