ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing

Comparison of William Blake: Songs of Innocence and Songs Of Experience

Updated on May 10, 2013

Analysis and Themes

Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs Of Experience represent the difference between what may be interpreted as two opposite states of mind or states of being. Innocence refers to a state of joy due to ignorance, whereas experience refers to a state of sorrow due to knowledge. Ignorance and knowledge in this sense are blanket terms that encompass an array of other things but are represented most vividly by the two poems by Blake, Infant Joy and Infant Sorrow, which show precisely the contrast between them.

Infant Joy

Infant Joy shows the happiness of a newborn baby. This baby is new to the world and in a state of joy and happiness. The poem conveys that the true state of happiness is very simple and goes back to the simplest of emotions. There is nothing clouding the baby's thoughts, as he doesn't have a worry in the world. The baby lacks knowledge because he hasn't been exposed to any kind of suffering, and doesn't even have an idea about what the world is really like. It's interesting to note that this poem is written from the baby's perspective in the present, whereas Infant Sorrow is written in the past tense.

Infant Sorrow

Infant Sorrow depicts childbirth, just like Infant Joy. However, as the person speaking in the poem has already grown older, and has experienced the harsh realities of the world, his views on childhood itself have changed. This poem looks at childhood in a very pessimistic and ugly way. It starts off describing how the mother is groaning while the baby is entering into the "dangerous world," and later explains that the baby is helpless and is just a nuisance to it's parents.

Symbolism

Both poems accurately depict the idea of childbirth and the events that take place surrounding it, so why is it that they have such contradictory messages behind them? One looks at the beauty of it all, while the other suggests that the beauty is overshadowed by everything else and rendered insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Arguably, Infant Sorrow looks at childbirth more realistically. The mother is obviously in a lot of pain, and the baby undoubtedly brings a lot of sleepless nights into the family. However, it's generally accepted that childbirth is a happy occasion and that the woes associated with it are trivial in comparison to the beauty of life.

Life itself however, in an anti-pastoral point of view, can be seen as a state of prolonged suffering. Infant Sorrow coincides with this belief, whereas Infant Joy represents the opposing pastoral view. In Infant Sorrow, the child has grown up and has experienced life; it is looking back at all of the events that took place during its birth. The child now has suffered pain, loss, and everything else associated with humanity. Essentially, Infant Sorrow can be compared to The Fall, where humanity gained knowledge about reality and death. With this knowledge, everything is no longer happy and bliss, since the child is aware that things besides perfection exist.

On the other hand, Infant Joy can be seen as a representation of the pastoral world, before The Fall. In this world, the baby lives in a metaphorical Garden of Eden. There is no evil or hatred in this world, only love. In fact, there is no negativity at all in this world, as such, its inhabitants don’t know of anything but the positive. They cannot differentiate between good or evil, because there is no evil to counter balance the good. Essentially, this world can be described as perfection, although arguably it is due to a state of ignorance.

This ignorance is what also divides the line between Classicism and Romanticism. The Classicists see the world objectively, and so side with the narrator of Infant Joy. They rely on facts and empirical proofs, and so a major criticism of them is that they are narrow-minded. They live in a bubble and so their beliefs are really hard to change. This narrow-mindedness isn't all bad though, as depicted by the poem. The baby is obviously happy, and his innocence is what allows him to feel this happiness. Other things that coincide with innocence are things like morning, or spring. These things are new and fresh, sort of like a baby. In a way, they are untainted by the "darkness" of experience.

The artwork for Infant Joy and Infant Sorrow also depict a mood correlating to innocence and experience, respectively. Infant Joy uses bright colors with flowers in a bright blue sky. The mother is holding the baby in her arms on her lap, while an angel watches over them. This representation is similar to that of a pastoral world, where everything is in a state of perfection. The flower that holds the mother and the baby is also a metaphorical barrier that shields them off from the outside world. Another significant thing to note is that the mother and child are placed over the poem, which again makes the scene seem very heavenly and pastoral.

On the other hand, Infant Sorrow's depiction of the mother and the child is below the poem, showing how the anti-pastoral world is on a lower level than the pastoral world. In this artwork, the mother isn't holding the baby, but rather seems to be struggling to hold it while the baby's arms are raised in a state of discomfort. They both seem to be struggling to make a connection, and the mother's body is even arched in an uncomfortable way. They are also outside and leaves can be seen on the ground (a hint at autumn) and the comfortable bedroom can be seen in the background. This artwork also uses darker colors such as blues and greys.

This is why experience is always represented by night or autumn, which similar to an adult has changed over time from morning and spring. This view, represented by Infant Sorrow, goes hand-in-hand with the romanticist’s beliefs. They see the pain and hard work involved in childbirth, and so are effectively able to see the bigger picture. In contrast to classicist beliefs, romanticists are said to be open-minded. This open-mindedness though isn't always a good thing, as modern society may dictate. People often get so caught up in the bigger picture that they fail to recognize the simplistic beauty of things, which is exactly what is happening in Infant Sorrow.

Just as Infant Sorrow fails to recognize the beauty of childbirth, Infant Joy also fails to realize that childbirth comes with its fair share of woes. Both poems depict polar views and neither one is any more "right" than the other. In fact, they are complementary poems because they make the reader realize that both of them are right in their own way. As such, both classicists and romanticists are right in their own ways as well, the only problem being that they lack what the other offers. Combining both ways of thinking, which modern society has gradually come towards on its own, is what is encouraged nowadays. Most people employ a mix of the two, which teaches them to stick to their fundamental beliefs whilst not being afraid of change. Both Infant Joy and Infant Sorrow show two sides of the same coin, and should be appreciated for reflecting both truths about childbirth.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)