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William blake

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Introduction

Rajit Shail English Literature Coursework April 2007 How does William Blake portray childhood in Songs of innocence and Experience? William Blake was a late eighteenth century poet who became famous for his two anthology of Song of Innocence (published in 1789) and Songs of Experience (published in 1794). He focused his poems mainly on children and religion. Several of his poems were written for children as it was easy to understand, used simple vocabulary, simple verse and some were happy and optimistic. However most of his poems had a deeper meaning. Blake lived during the Industrial Revolution. This was a period of immense social, political and cultural change in many areas of the world. He saw child labour and blamed the Church and wealthy people for not doing anything about it. He lived poor, therefore was unable to do anything himself. His poems like 'The Chimney Sweeper' and 'Holy Thursday' show the hardship put upon the orphan children of the time. They did dangerous jobs to get their daily bread and many died. Blake saw this and wrote countless of his poems based on this. Songs on Innocence was Blake's first collection and it demonstrates how people are often blind to their own reality. ...read more.

Middle

This can be seen were it is written: 'The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind / My face turns green and pale.' The children do not respond, we can say they have lost the voice of innocence. The poem is such a contrast to the first one. The only similarities the titles and the first line: 'When the voices of children are heard on the green'. However 'green' here refers to sickness. The children are 'whispering' and have no freedom as the Nurse refers to them as 'my children'. Innocence thus becomes pointless: 'Your spring and your day are wasted in play'. This poem is a little like Holy Thursday as in both the children are trapped and are being controlled by adults. Holy Thursday is a poem about clean orphan children of London flowing like a river into St. Paul's Cathedral. The children are being lead by 'gray headed beadles' and are brightly dressed. Once in the church they sit in vast multitude are 'raising their hands' in prayer. They sing like a 'mighty wind'/ 'harmonious thundering' as their guardians, 'the aged men', watch over them. The poem urges the reader to remember that such urchins as these are actually angels of God. ...read more.

Conclusion

Childhood is portrayed as fearful and lonely. Blake shows this by giving the chimney sweeper an experienced voice. The child is abandoned by his parent and left to die: 'They clothed me in the clothed of death'. This is referring to the 'black' soot he is covered in. At the end he says: 'Who make up a heaven of our misery'. A normal child would not use such language but as he is experienced he understands. The sentence basically means that they think they are doing well but are not. The mood and tone of the poem is darker compared to the first Chimney sweeper. Blake is criticising the church for letting all this happen. The poem shows Blake's anger towards the church and the society. The poem is similar to 'The Little Vagabond' as in both negative things are said about the church. The difference between the portrayal of childhood in the two collections are that in Songs of Innocence childhood is easier, happier and more free, whereas, in Songs of experience childhood is lonely and filed with fear and anxiety. Blake thought children were the future and therefore should not be treated like dirt. I think this was the reason why Blake wrote his poems. To sum up Songs of innocence was how people thought that everything was all right but it was Songs of experience which opened every ones eyes. ...read more.

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