The following poem comparisons are from the book “Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake” Essay

This poem repeatedly talks about God and it fits well in the Innocence part of the book. It uses a few words frequently such as Money, Pity, Peace and Love. They are mentioned in every verse of the poem. In the third verse Blake tells us about these words by saying ‘Mercy has a human heart. Pity a human face. And love, the human form divine. And peace, the human dress.’ This repetetive series of words show the theme that Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love are attributes both human and divine. The illustration is of a strange flame like growth with the occasional flower coming out from it. At the bottom a man with a halo stands over a man and a woman and looks down on them as if he were God. At the top a woman in a green dress glides along the plant towards some children.

It is thought that this plate is the contrary plate to “A Divine Image” which was produced much later in his life during the war with France.

“A Divine Image”, exhibits the very opposite of the attributes that were described in the Innocence version. Blake shows all his violent feelings in the illustration, which is of a craftsman furiously hammering the sun, which is pinned to the anvil.

Blake thought that this poem was far more savage than he had intended and so he abandoned it soon after starting it. It describes cruelty, jealousy, terror and secrecy saying that they are the four parts to every human. The third line in this poem is “Terror, the Human Form Divine”, whereas in “The Divine Image” in Innocence it says “Love, the Human Form Divine”. Which puts emphasis that they are the contrary plates.

The introduction to Innocence has a very positive air to it with happy words like pleasant and laughing in the first stanza. This gets the reader into the mood of an enjoyable poem. In the second stanza Blake portrays himself as a piper who is playing a song about a lamb “Pipe a song about a lamb.” I think that Blake uses a lamb in Innocence as it is soft, white and innocent and is often used to symbolise Jesus. In the last stanza he says ‘And I stain’d the water clear’ I think that this is referring to the technique that Blake used to produce his plates by which he painted in water colour and so stained his picture. Intertwining vines winding up both sides of the illustration symbolise close relationships and love.

The introduction to experience does not contrast the other introduction in an extremely negative way but talks about the cycle of night and day. It mentions night repeatedly throughout the poem before ending with the line ‘Is giv’n thee the break of day.’ Although it does not seem to contrast the previous introduction I think that as the previous introduction was very positive and happy it automatically makes this one look more dull and boring as it does not use any happy words such as lamb. In the second stanza it mentions a weeping soul in the starry night as if to say how alone the soul is in the evening starry sky. The decoration shows a female figure reclining on a couch, which sits on a cloud. She looks out through a golden circle at the universe.

The first ‘The Chimney Sweeper’ is unusually long for one of Blake’s poems and at first glance does not seem to fit in the Innocence part but on close inspection it is against the shameful use of using small boys to sweep chimneys. It is about a small boy called Tom Dacre who is forced to sweep chimneys. His mother has died and his hair has been cut off so that his hair doesn’t get soot in it. The first three stanzas seem very negative and sad especially the line ‘Were all of them lock’d up in coffins of black.’

However the next half is much more cheery as Toms’ angel comes down and frees the children from the chimneys and allows them to clean themselves and play in the sun. The decoration at the bottom of the plate shows the angel unlocking the coffin and the boys dancing in their freedom. Blake does not try to openly make child labour and chimney sweeping look bad, he just gives an account of what actually happens.

The second Chimney Sweeper is half the length of the first and it again portrays a small boy in the snow. The plate makes it look unnatural for the boy to be there as the contrast of the black chimney sweep against the snow gives a sense of non-belonging. The boy’s parents are too busy praying to pay any attention to the crying boy, but he still insists that he is happy in the last stanza. Both plates use the words “weep, weep” and I think this symbolises that the chimney sweepers emotional misery is directly linked with the work they do, and shows the constant state of despair that they all live in. These two plates are a prime example that although the majority of the poems in Innocence are happy and positive the occasional one introduces sadness and despair. This is the same with Experience, as some of the plates do not seem to convey sadness but happiness, such as this one.

The plate ‘Infant Joy’ is about a small baby of two days old. It is very innocent and peaceful with a very colourful illustration. Key words from this poem include joy and sweet. They are repeatedly mentioned which makes the reader think more about the innocent child. The decoration has a very curvy flower perhaps a tulip, which has on one stem an unopened bud, which is used to represent an unimpregnated womb. The open flower above is the impregnated womb with small baby lying on the mothers lap.

Instead of comparing this poem with plate 48 ‘Infant Sorrow’ I chose plate 39 ‘The Sick Rose’.

This plate represents the struggle of love with the red rose representing love and the worm as the intervening silent love breaker. The reason the rose is portrayed as sick is that in the illustration a caterpillar is eating away at its leaves in the top left hand corner. In the illustration the rose has many sharp thorns sticking out along the whole length of the stem, which emphasize the pains of love on Earth. However in ‘Infant Joy’ the stem is extremely windy without any thorns. I think that ‘The sick rose’ belongs in experience as it depicts pain and suffering by using images of thorns and of an invisible worm which destroy the life of the rose.