• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How does William Blake use symbolism to comment on society in Songs of Experience?

Extracts from this document...


How does William Blake use symbolism to comment on society in Songs of Experience? William Blake was a revolutionary philosopher and a poet who felt compelled to write about the injustice of the eighteenth century. Blake was a social critic of the Romantic Period, yet his criticism is still relevant to today's society. Blake encountered many hardships in his life, including an arrest for making slanderous statements about the king and country. All of the events that Blake endured in his life had a great influence on his writing. When Blake wrote the Songs of Innocence, his vision of his audience might have been a little blurred. The audience that Blake's writings were influenced by what were wealthy "soul murderers", who bought young children from their poor parents for the purpose of enslaving them. They forced young children to perform jobs that were inapt and dangerous for humans to implement. An audience, therefore, have to take into consideration the mental state of the speaker created by Blake. In William Blake's "The Chimney Sweeper" in Songs of Experience. The story is told by a little boy. In this particular poem, the speaker is "a little black thing among the snow". The little boy is black because he is covered in soot from the chimney that he is forced to clean, but how are readers to know this unless we are familiar with the term "Innocence"? Later in this poem of "Experience" the little boy talks about smiling "among the winter's snow", giving the reader the impression of a white, snow-capped environment. The image we get from reading "The Chimney Sweeper" in Songs of Experience is that of a small, lost and abandoned, maybe an African-American child lying in the snow crying because his parents went to the church to pray for what they want, which is not him. This image does is not precise to the thoughts of William Blake and what he is trying to put across, but this poem is in 'Songs ...read more.


He demonstrates to the world that as a writer he personally understands some of the faces of the God he believes in. In these faces of God, Blake made some fascinating revelations on what society was becoming to be. He related these revelations by subtly making comments, and remarking on the faults of society in most of his poems, mainly from 'Songs of Experience.' The foundation for a lot of Blake's poems was society and the things he found appalling in it. For example, in his reflection of "London," William Blake laments the poverty faced by the lower class of modern, industrialised London, and he can find no note of consolation or hope for their future. Blake uses this theme to dramatically depict the conditions in which the oppressed lower class is forced to live; he develops the theme through the use of sounds, symbolism, and an ironic twist of words in the last line that expresses Blake's ultimate belief in the hopelessness of the situation. The poem is dominated by a rigid meter that mirrors the rigidity and the helpless situation of the lives of the poor and the oppressive class system. The first stanza begins with Blake describing someone who sounds most likely to be himself walking through the "charter'd" streets of the city near the "charter'd" Thames. Every aspect of the city has been sanctioned and organized by the ruling class for example, seeing expressions of weakness and woe on the faces of all the people he meets. The streets and the river make up a network that has been laid out and chartered by the wealthy class to control the poor. The poet walks among the poor, participating in the drudgery of their daily lives; he feels their misery as they endlessly struggle to survive as pawns of the class system of the harsh society. In the second stanza Blake describes how in every voice of every person he perceives their "mind-forg'd manacles." ...read more.


("The Tyger," for example, attempts to account for real, negative forces in the universe, which innocence such as in 'The Lamb' fails to confront). These latter poems treat s****l morality in terms of the repressive effects of jealousy, shame, and secrecy, all of which corrupt the ingenuousness of innocent love. With regard to religion, they are less concerned with the character of individual faith than with the institution of the Church, its role in politics, and its effects on society and the individual mind. Experience thus adds a layer to innocence that darkens its hopeful vision while compensating for some of its ignorant blindness. The style of the Songs of Innocence and Experience is simple and direct, but the language and the rhythms are painstakingly crafted, and the ideas they explore are often deceptively complex. Many of the poems are narrative in style; others, like "The Sick Rose" and "The Divine Image," make their arguments through various types of symbolism or by means of abstract concepts. Some of Blake's favourite rhetorical techniques are personification and the reworking of Biblical symbolism and language. Blake frequently employs the familiar meters of ballads, nursery rhymes, and hymns, applying them to his own, often unorthodox conceptions. This combination of tradition and the unfamiliar, with Blake's perpetual interest in reconsidering and reframing the assumptions of human thought and social behaviour depict that Blake's philosophical thoughts have always questioned the ways of society of his time and the future, in many ways his thoughts extracted from his work were indeed correct and by using symbolism in words, metaphors, sounds, enjambments and narrators plus several other ways has commented on society through his personal point of view, he used religion, people's classes, people's occupations, other living beings and indications of emotions to get his ideas across, whether in agreement or not. Most of William Blake's poems especially in 'Songs of Experience' are disagreeing with the ways of society and the rules. Fiona Malpass 10C1 19th Century Poetry English Literature Coursework 08/05/2007 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Blake section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Blake essays

  1. How the two contrary states of human soul are reflected in the "Songs of ...

    The very smile of the child breeds discord. Infant wiles and infant cries. In 'Infant Sorrow' we find, "My mother groaned, my mother wept; Into the dangerous world I leapt." It would seem that fear has infected human being in this state.

  2. Explain how Blake uses imagery, form and language in these poems to express his ...

    The tone is gentle and pleasant, while the narrator is curious and inquisitive. This is reflected by Blake's use of imagery and language. Blake also uses alliteration of the word "thee" in the first two lines of the first stanza to reflect the gentleness of the lamb.

  1. Discuss the way Graham Greene's use of childhood informs your reading of the short ...

    It is the selfishness of the adults that moulded the child into this man and changed his perception on life. To Greene innocence is found to be dangerous, something can happen to a child and they can become in contact with this complex world too soon, as did Phillip.

  2. Allen Ginsberg has been endlessly talked and written about for the better part of ...

    This is an attempt to conceptualize his theory of the past and then into his future poems which were evidently unaltered. In Excrement he does so in a humorous manner, which Ginsberg duly enjoyed adding in his latter day poetry.

  1. The Little Black Boy.

    Like this, He denies the separation between a soul and body. The boy's thought is nothing more than seeking consolation in a religious saying. Blake wants to criticize that the religious message cannot be the effective solution for the problem about the inequal society and slavery.

  2. Essay on William Blake

    Sweet Love! was thought a crime." (Blake, 1967, a.ll.1-4) This speaker directly talks to the audience and conveys to them that the freedom to love was inadmissible back in the day. From the beginning Blake conveys to the audience that the fact that love was condemned was appalling by suggesting that love was "sweet love" and was thought of as a crime.

  1. How William Blake incorporated his attitudes to society into his poems.

    In the Songs of Innocence however, the chimney sweep views God very highly. However, in the entirety of the poem, religion isn't mentioned, only God, and there's a direct connection. ' And by came an Angel who had a bright key, And he open'd the coffins and set them all

  2. Free essay

    Carefully read the poem 'Washing Day' by Anna Laetitia Barbauld. Write an essay of ...

    The 'bowed soul' coupled with her use of alliteration 'Which week, smooth sliding after week, brings on too soon' suggests to us that the spirit of women is twisted by the frequency of this chore. Her description of the 'silent breakfast-meal', 'nor pleasant smile' sets a pensive mood in anticipation of the drama and disasters that can effect washing-day.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work