Essay, Research Paper: Blake's Songs Of Innocence And Experience
In William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, the gentle lamb and the
dire tiger define childhood by setting a contrast between the innocence of youth
and the experience of age. The Lamb is written with childish repetitions and a
selection of words which could satisfy any audience under the age of five. Blake
applies the lamb in representation of youthful immaculateness. The Tyger is
hard-featured in comparison to The Lamb, in respect to word choice and
representation. The Tyger is a poem in which the author makes many inquiries,
almost chantlike in their reiterations. The question at hand: could the same
creator have made both the tiger and the lamb? For William Blake, the answer is
a frightening one. The Romantic Period’s affinity towards childhood is
epitomized in the poetry of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.
"Little Lamb who made thee/ Dost thou know who made thee (Blake 1-2)."
The Lamb’s introductory lines set the style for what follows: an innocent poem
about a amiable lamb and it’s creator. It is divided into two stanzas, the
first containing questions of whom it was who created such a docile creature
with "clothing of delight (Blake 6)." There are images of the lamb
frolicking in divine meadows and babbling brooks. The stanza closes with the
same inquiry which it began with. The second stanza begins with the author
claiming to know the lamb’s creator, and he proclaims that he will tell him.
Blake then states that the lamb’s creator is none different then the lamb
itself. Jesus Christ is often described as a lamb, and Blake uses lines such as
"he is meek and he is mild (Blake 15)" to accomplish this. Blake then
makes it clear that the poem’s point of view is from that of a child, when he
says "I a child and thou a lamb (Blake 17)." The poem is one of a
child’s curiosity, untainted conception of creation, and love of all things
celestial. The Lamb’s nearly polar opposite is The Tyger. It’s the
difference between a feel-good minister waxing warm and fuzzy for Jesus, and a
fiery evangelist preaching a hellfire sermon. Instead of the innocent lamb we
now have the frightful tiger- the emblem of nature red in tooth and claw- that
embodies experience. William Blake’s words have turned from heavenly to
hellish in the transition from lamb to tiger. "Burnt the fire of thine eye
(Blake 6)," and "What the hand dare seize the fire (Blake 7)?"
are examples of how somber and serrated his language is in this poem. No longer
is the author asking about origins, but is now asking if he who made the
innocuous lamb was capable of making such a dreadful beast. Experience asks
questions unlike those of innocence. Innocence is "why and how?" while
experience is "why and how do things go wrong, and why me?" Innocence
is ignorance, and ignorance is, as they say, bliss. Innocence has not yet
experienced fiery tigers in its existence, but when it does, it wants to know
how lambs and tigers are supposed to co-exist. The poem begins with "Could
frame thy fearful symmetry (Blake 4)?" and ends with "Dare frame thy
fearful symmetry (Blake 11)?" This is important because when the author
initially poses the question, he wants to know who has the ability to make such
a creature. After more interrogation, the question evolves to "who could
create such a villain of its potential wrath, and why?" William Blake’s
implied answer is "God." In the poems, innocence is exhilaration and
grace, contrasting with experience which is ill-favored and formidable.
According to Blake, God created all creatures, some in his image and others in
his antithesis. The Lamb is written in the frame of mind of a Romantic, and The
Tyger sets a divergent Hadean image to make the former more holy. The Lamb, from
William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience is a befitting
representation of the purity of heart in childhood, which was the Romantic
BibliographyBlake, William. Songs of Innocence and Experience, The Tyger and The Lamb.
The Longman Anthology of British Literature . Ed. David Damrosch. New York:
Addison Wesley Longman, Inc. 1999. 112, 120.
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