This essay will discuss how William Blake represents poverty and suffering throughout his poetry in Songs of Innocence and Experience. “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Innocence and “London” from Songs of Experience are the two poems that will be discussed in this essay. Both poems express poverty and suffering that concern with people, particularly the people who are more vulnerable in society. They also represent suffering and the hardships that are associated with it. They also reflect on what the hierarchy of England was and how it affected people, which would have also been an influenced as to why people and children were living in poverty.
Nevertheless, the last two lines of the poem are the most blatant indicators of the speaker’s regret. Everything else in the poem has only been hinting at the speaker’s realization of his childish ignorance, but he explicitly states that he didn’t understand the more understated ways of expressing love in the last two lines. Repetition serves as a powerful tool for amplifying the pain and regret felt by the speaker, as he openly criticizes his past self for thinking he had his father figured out without searching deeper. The son knows he can’t go back in time and teach himself the “austere,” or harsh, and “lonely offices,” meaning roles, of love. A parent’s love is mostly subtle, and his lack of understanding that as a child is something he can never take back.
Poem number eleven within his notebook starts with the lines, “‘The shepard blew upon his reed a strange fragility of notes’” which is a clear imitation of the first few lyrics of Blake’s Songs of Innocence. It was also discovered that the twelfth poem titled The Shepherd to His Lass contained early imitations of pastoral lyrics, which can be reasonably attributed to Blake’s influence, given Thomas’s great interest in Blake (13-14 Grant). Dylan Thomas’s concept of the Divine Image can also be given credit to Blake’s influence from Vala; much of the imagery used in Thomas’s In the Beginning is very Blakean and can be traced to similarities in The Book of Urizen. The use of imagery that incorporates blood and anatomy is consistent with both poets while they tend to see the world in human form. For example, they both view the creation of the world as the creation of the human body and views the world in it’s “fallen form” in terms of a “giant sleeping body” (Grant 17).
In both Blake’s poem To Tirzah, found in his Songs of Experience, and Baudelaire’s poem Obsession, found in The Flowers of Evil, there is a recurring theme of redemption portrayed through religious imagery. In To Tirzah, the speaker addresses a woman, most probably named Tirzah, talking about sin and relating this to the contrast between his mortality and religiosity. In Obsession, the speaker addresses nature, speaking to the woods, the ocean, and the night, comparing them to the divine. Therefore, both Blake’s and Baudelaire’s poems juxtapose the mortal and spiritual through alluding to religious imagery and texts. Despite this, they reach vastly different conclusions concerning redemption.
David Foster Wallace, in his commencement speech, “This Is Water,” argues that reaching contentment in life requires a cessation from egoistic thought. Wallace supports his argument by his use of hypothetical anecdotes, shocking diction, and first person point of view so that he can show that self-imposed misery is borne out of self-centered thinking. The author’s purpose is to provide an alternative way of thinking so that individuals are more aware of their mindset during life’s daily, menial tasks. The author writes in a cautionary tone for graduating college seniors who are preparing to enter the world. In his speech, Wallace first uses hypothetical anecdotes in order to show the effect of self-centered thought on one’s happiness.
George Norton’s 2014 analysis of William’s Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience focuses primarily on the two poems titled “The Chimney Sweeper”. In his response to the innocent version, he says that, “the boy explains that he was sold by his father after the death of his mother. The reader, too, becomes implicated in his exploitation: ‘So your chimneys I sweep’ (my italics), he declares, though the suggestion is Blake’s; the speaker seems unaware of his own degradation. Central to the poem is the dual contrast between the grim realities of the sweeps’ lives and the ecstatic vision of liberty contained in the dream of Tom Dacre, a new recruit to the gang.” I agree with this completely. Next in the poem, it discusses the new recruit, Tom,
Similarly, Stowe makes use of the subject family and language to highlight the destruction of slavery by mentioning how Harris was separated from his mother. One may assume that going through life without a mother or the lack thereof a close female relative has a significant impact on a person's behavior because there is an absence of nurturing and protection that society expects women to perform. Therefore, describing the reaction of his mother once they were not sold together depicts the harsh reality of slavery and tap into audience’s emotions to understand that experience. The text states, “I saw my mother put up at sheriff’s sale, with her seven children… they were sold… one by one… she came and kneeled down before old Mas’r, and begged
The situation is somewhat the same also in Blake, who successfully reflects the political and economic troubles of 19th century London by giving his readers the ability to visualize what it would be like to be a victim of the monarchy’s governing tactics. In the poem he talks about poverty, death, marriage and prostitution, child labor: all aspects of the failure of the social organization, of the deficiencies of the State. The "blackening Church" is connected to the brutal exploitation of young childhood as chimney-sweepers. Their cry appals the church in the sense of putting to shame, challenging or indicting, as does the sigh of the soldiers. Blake goes also a step further by referring to the Palace, a symbol of power which is running with blood.
The innocence poems were the products of a mind in a state of innocence and of an imagination unstained by strains of worldliness. Public events and private emotions soon converted Innocence into Experience, producing Blake’s preoccupation with the problem of Good and Evil. This, with his feelings of indignation and pity for the sufferings of mankind as he saw them in the streets of London, resulted in his composing the second set.” Whether Blake’s intentions for Experience were already present during his composition of Innocence or were a later stroke of inspiration, the message of inevitable corruption and the scathing social critique are just as relevant. “The Lamb” is the natural state into which we are born, childish innocent and virtuous. But in a society strife with corruption, social injustices and moral oppression, time will take its toll, stripping away much of the innocence, leaving in its stead the cynical disenchantment of experience, as found in “The
William Blake, after having written Songs of Innocence (1789) which represents the innocence and the pastoral world from the perspective of the early life (childhood), acquires a more lugubrious tone in his work named Songs of Experience (1794), where the poet expresses his discontent, and states how dreary the life of a person becomes when they reach the adulthood, and comments on the two contrary states of the human soul. Blake thought that adults were corrupted, that they had lost the goodness and purity at the very moment when they gained experience from their lives, thus the collection of poems talking about the trouble within adulthood is an obvious attempt to narrate the assumptions of human thought and social behaviour through poems