PoetryVerily I say unto you, Whoseover shall not receive the kingdom of God as alittle child shall in no wise enter therein. The words arethose of Jesus, who was neither unaware of reality, nor indifferent tosuffering. The childlike innocence referred to above is a state of purity andnot of ignorance. Such is the vision of Blake in his childlike Songs ofInnocence. It would be foolish to suppose that the author of ^ÑHolyThursday^Ò and ^ÑThe Chimney Sweeper^Ò in Songs of Innocencewas insensible to the contemporary social conditions of orphans or young sweeps,and that therefore the poems of the same names in Songs of Experience aresomehow apologies or retractions of an earlier misapprehension. For the languageand style of Songs of Innocence are so consistently naïve compared toSongs of Experience, that it is clear that the earlier poems are a deliberateattempt to capture the state of grace described in the Biblical quotation above- a celebration of the triumph of innocence in a world of experience.Order now
Often thewords of the poem are spoken by a child. It would be impossible to imagine amodern child using language such as: Gave thee such a tender voice, Making allthe vales rejoice. and it is most unlikely that children spoke thus even inBlake^Òs day. Yet this is the language of children^Òs hymns. I waspersonally acquainted with all the words in ^ÑThe Lamb^Ò, throughSunday School hymns, long before reaching school age. By using the vocabulary ofthe hymnals, Blake emphasises for us the connection of which the child isinstinctively aware: I, a child, and thou a lamb, We are called by his name.
Thesyntax and tone, however, have the authentic simplicity of children^Òsspeech. The first verse is a series of questions addressed to the lamb. Thesecond stanza begins with the child^Òs triumph at being able to answerthose questions: Little Lamb, I^Òll tell thee. Typically the questions areasked purely for the satisfaction it gives the child in answering. There is agreat deal of repetition in all the songs: in ^ÑThe Lamb^Ò thistakes the form of a refrain repeated at the beginning and the end of eachstanza, once more reminiscent of children^Òs hymns.
In contrast, ^ÑTheTyger^Ò has an incantatory rhythm, far more like a pagan chant than achildish hymn. And the vocabulary is no longer within the understanding of achild: What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? This songalso asks questions. But in the world of experience, unlike the world ofinnocence, there are no longer any reassuring answers. The world of Innocence isa world of confident answers; in Experience the answers remain. Indeed, thequestions themselves become more threatening.
The slightly incredulous questionabove alters subtly during the progress of the poem until the word ^ÑCould^Òis finally replaced by the far more menacing ^ÑDare^Ò. There is nosuch progression in Songs of Innocence. Each song captures the ^Ñmoment ineach day that Satan cannot find^Ò [Milton, II, Pl. 35, 1.
42]. Blake^Òsinnocence does not develop: it exists. If we compare Songs of Innocence withSongs of Experience we see that this pattern is constantly repeated. The momentthat the concept of Experience is introduced the simplicity of the languagedisappears. As affirmation gives way to doubt, the unquestioning faith ofinnocence becomes the intellectual argument of experience. In ^ÑInfantJoy^Ò the baby is free even of the bonds of a name.
In ^ÑCradleSong^Ò it is the mother who speaks, not with the simplicity of ^ÑInfantJoy^Ò yet with a naivete emphasised by the repetition of key alliterativewords – sweet/sleep/smile – with their connotations of joy. In Songs ofInnocence moans are ^Ñsweet^Ò and ^Ñdovelike^Ò whereas in Songs of Experience the babies cry in ^Ñfear^Ò[London}. In Songs of Innocence the narrative is as simple as the direct speech. The verbs are straightforward and unambiguous; God ^Ñappeared^Ò , He^Ñkissed^Ò the child, ^Ñled^Ò him to his mother. Andalthough the bleaker side of life is portrayed – poverty and discrimination forexample – the overall vision is positive. 1.
Blake believed that withoutcontraries there could be no progression. In Songs of Experience we see Blake ^Ñwalkingnaked^Ò, to use Yeats^Ò phrase, as he shouts angrily against socialevils and religious manacles and hypocrisy. Songs of Innocence are far morecarefully controlled, for all their apparent artlessness. In Songs of InnocenceBlake^Òs voice never falters: the language is consistently naïve,and when images of a less childlike nature do intrude they are always absorbedinto the security that is innocence.
Innocence is a state of faith that mustpreclude doubt. Blake^Òs language is naïve and unambiguous. It isdeliberately adopted to suit the subject and discarded later in the propheticbooks. He may have considered experience as a necessary part of life, but Blakeremained, supremely, a poet of Innocence.