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Blake's idea of Innocence

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Introduction

Seminar Leader: Ben Hickman Jo Devanny, jd307 (R) 5 November 2008 School of English E325 Romanticism Question 1. 'The Romantic conception of innocence is full of complexities and ironies; the difficulty for the reader is to gauge whether these are conscious or not.' Discuss with reference to Songs of Innocence and of Experience. The subject of innocence and youth is an integral part of Blake's 'Songs of Innocence and Experience,' these poems are generally associated with children and their innocence without experience, as we see in 'The Eccohing Green' in Songs of Innocence as 'The Sun does arise', and the short line length gives the happy imagery of children playing without restrictions in the idyllic setting where nature and happiness are in synchronicity. As the 'sun does descend' in the final stanza and the language changes the mood to 'weary' and 'darkening' with a longer line length, the reader could assume that this is signifying how short lived youth is. Also that Blake is marking the loss of innocence as sport is 'no more seen' and the green no longer 'Ecchoes' the youth of the on looking past generation. When debating whether or not Blake was aware of the ironies in his work it is important to look at his ever-recurring theme of the church and God. ...read more.

Middle

in Innocence, where Tom Dacre's only comfort is in death where he will have 'God for his father and never want joy.' Blake's celestial language and use of nature as escapism is the only light in this haunting poem that tells of a young boy sold for child slavery in a society that permitted the selling of children and the buying of slaves. The influence and power of religion had so much control that it even influences the naive child's dreams. We could presume that the church justified this treatment of children by supplying the dream of happiness as the 'Angel told Tom; if he'd be a good boy/ He'd have God for his father.' This almost denotes moral blackmail for their obedience and suffering. Blake's use of dichotomy is apparent in the use of colours with 'coffins of black' and 'white hair', but also the boy's emotions in these polarities, as Tom Dacre 'cried' at having his head shaven, to then be 'leaping' and 'laughing'. The fourth stanza describes the boys being cleansed by nature; they 'wash in the river, and shine in the sun,' which creates an image of how Blake possibly viewed nature, childhood and innocence as intertwined. In the 'Experience' poem of the same name, the child tells the ambiguous voice when asked of his parent's whereabouts that they have 'gone up to the church to pray'. ...read more.

Conclusion

also the chimney sweeper, which could be taken as his thought's on the class system at the time, as the monarchy concentrated on war while protected and safe inside 'Palace walls.' Thomas Paine wrote in 1776 that 'Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise.' 3 With all the complexities and meanings in Blake's poems it would be hard to say that his ideal of innocence was not in some way related to childhood, nature and his own views on God and religion, as we know from general reading that Blake was seen as eccentric in his methods of publishing his poetry. The laborious job of creating his poetry on copper plates with accompanying art work was unorthodox in itself, and his admittance as seeing himself as a prophet would surely have led to some speculation regarding his mental health. It is hard to not admire Blake's work as the poems that seem harmless and without depth are deceptively captivating, his views of innocence, childhood and the concept of God can be summarised by Wordsworth's 'Ode; Intimations of Immorality and Recollections of Early Childhood'4 'But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home: Heaven lies about us in our infancy! Shades of the prison-house begin to close Upon the growing Boy... ...read more.

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