William Blake Essay

The poetry of William Blake is renowned for its critique of society and
injustice as well as expressing strong religious influences. Songs of Innocence
and Songs of Experience were written concerning the destiny of the human spirit
and the differences between how children and adults view and understand the
world. Blake believed that man had the potential to attain both wisdom through
experience and joy through innocence. He admired the innocence of children and
thought that self-awareness could be realized through the recapturing of the
wonderment and imagination of a child. Songs of Innocence reflect that innocence
and joy. Songs of Experience were written to expound upon how the knowledge of
injustices, evils, and confusion arrive as a result of life experience. These
poems focus on understanding the evils and injustices of the world without
becoming tainted by them in order to gain an awareness of our true identities.

Two of Blake’s most well known poems are “The Lamb” from Songs of
Innocence and “The Tyger” from Songs of Experience. Each work contains
elements relating to their themes. “The Lamb” is written through the
viewpoint of a child as a symbol of innocence analogous to “The Tyger” as an
example of experience. In “The Lamb”, Blake discusses many points pertaining
to religion. The lamb is described as being meek, vulnerable, and harmless when
Blake says, “Gave thee clothing of delight, Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice” (lines 3-7). The picture of the lamb feeding”by the stream and oe’r the mead” (line 4) suggests God’s kindness in
creation. We are reminded in the second stanza that God, who created the lamb,
is also like the lamb. “For he calls Himself a Lamb. He is meek, and He is
mild” (lines 14-15). After “He became a little child” (line 16), Jesus
became known as The Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. The
innocence of the lamb is shown to be wholesome, good, and right, free from the
corruption of the world. “The Tyger” also deals with religious elements and
creation asking, “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” (line 20). The first
stanza asks the question of what kind of being could be powerful enough to
create “thy fearful symmetry” (line 4). Blake is amazed at the complexity of
the animal, “what art, could twist the sinews of thy heart” (lines 9-10),
the power that caused its heart to beat, and at the formation of tiger’s
brain. We cannot be completely positive of what the tiger represents, but with
its fearsome appearance and savage nature, the majesty and power of God’s
creation is manifested. The tiger is terrifying in its beauty, strength,
complexity, and vitality. The lamb is obviously one of God’s creations with
innocence and meekness with which he must be pleased, but Blake wonders whether
He is as pleased with the tiger, “Did he smile his work to see?” (line 19).

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The poem ends with the poet questioning not who “could” create the animal,
but who would “dare” to create such an animal. Because the tiger represents
experience, it can be inferred that experience is not something to be desired
and is evil. Through further examination we realize that experience, like the
tiger, is to be respected and revered, but not enjoyed. The wisdom that comes
from experience allows one to ponder life’s mysteries, inherent complications
and problems, injustices, and abuses without becoming tainted by them while
maintaining a state of innocence. The Tiger and The Lamb are complementary due
to their examination of dissimilar, almost contradictory viewpoints. When
analyzed together, we realize that there must be a union of opposites where
innocence and experience are fused. Simply returning to a state of innocence and
ignoring the lessons taught through experience is not sufficient for us to
become aware of our own identities, but recognizing and understanding the evils
around us without becoming tainted by them is how we achieve self-awareness.


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