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William Blake - Innocence represents the ideal state and experience represents the reality

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Introduction

Abbie Taylor 'Innocence represents the ideal state and experience represents the reality'. Discuss this statement in the light of the poems you have studied so far. Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience juxtapose the innocent, pastoral world of childhood against an adult world of disappointment and corruption. Yet, the two contrasting states are never fully separated in his poems - suggesting it is not possible to be either innocent or experienced. The introduction to Songs of Innocence has a rural background and much pastoral imagery such as 'valleys wild'. The piper, on the request of a child sitting on a cloud translates his music onto paper, in the form of poetry. Utensil he uses for writing is borrowed from nature (a reed), which reflects the close, 'innocent' relationship between music, poetry and nature. However, the poem is not entirely innocent, there is some reference to experience - the adult is experienced in knowing how to write. Yet this does not seem to prevent him from being innocent. The Shepherd has two stanzas. ...read more.

Middle

It could be seen as though 'Old John' is attempting to recreate his lost innocence through watching the innocence of the children and by remembering himself in a time of innocence. Although more subtle than the other poems, there is a slight sense of foreboding - that the world of experience is close - in the ending of the poem, 'the darkening green'. All of Blake's Songs of Innocence contain this foreboding, the opposition between the states of innocence and experience is almost fully realised in these poems alone. The introduction to Songs of Experience shows the bad state of mankind and the potential power of the 'Holy Word'. The religious connotations are huge in this poem, it is implied that the bard is God 'who Present, Past & Future sees' - he carries history, comments on the present and projects on the future. The 'ancient trees' could be those in Eden (Genesis) and therefore the 'lapsed soul' refers to Eve giving in to temptation. Clearly, this poem does not imitate the simplicity of the Songs of Innocence - it demands an experienced reader. ...read more.

Conclusion

This poem identifies some emotions and human traits that are found with experience - 'Cruel, jealous, selfish fear!' - suggesting once again that experience is not the ideal state. Although on the face, it seems as though innocence is the ideal state in many of his poems, Blake seems to be suggesting that with his own knowledge of the world, this is not the case. Although being innocent, and thereby not having full knowledge of the atrocities of the world means one can live in peace, this is not a permanent state. Every poem in Songs of Innocence suggests that the character or characters in the poem will at some stage in their lives have to gain experience, thereby losing the idyllic nature of experience. Although not apparent in the poems I have studied so far, it seems as though there is another stage after experience, a stage 'Old John' in 'The Ecchoing Green' seems to be in. One cannot escape the transition from innocence to experience, but one can choose to be experienced yet remain pure at heart. This stage is a combination of being innocent in one's actions, but being experienced and wise. ...read more.

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