The Songs of Experience was a collection of poems written by William Blake and published in the year of 1794. These poems give the impression of what the world was like back then, negative and bleak although it is exaggerated. The narrator no longer has a bright and positive outlook like how it used to be in the Songs of Innocence. Each poem discloses the point of view of an adult, ranging from feelings of fear and rage to child exploitation. As adults, they cannot be described as naive or see the world innocently anymore instead, they must mature leaving their innocence behind. Even though they might be ready, they are forced to become more self-aware, heighten their intelligence, and base their decisions on morality. All the articles analyzed highlights a God figure, the relationship with God, and speaking expression.
The article by Jim Baird critically analyses each poem in the Songs of Experience stating that the common theme is the people seeing and accepting society as it is and belief of God being seen as naive. He points out that all the poems in this collection reveal the negative factors of anything occurring in the world. Attention is drawn to how Blake uses lots of everyday emotions such as jealousy, love, and sorrow, twisting them until they mirror the world’s negativity. Although a person may seem happy, there are always two sides to a story that coexist depending on who the narrator is. Even if the experienced were “fixated on sin and corruption when there is a fuller, genuinely spiritual world at hand.” (Baird) Baird explains that experience does not depend on age rather, it is determined by circumstances of the environment as well as the level of intelligence. Children are unable to distinguish between good and evil which makes it easy for them to see a world full of color. On the other hand, adults who have been through more experiences know how to deal with evil, accepting the inevitable. However, some adults will never be able to perceive the real truth that some children are able to see. He goes on to explain how good and evil does not make sense if God only provides good. The experienced poems do not support the idea of God; however, they promote that nature is the answer to all questions. If nature is treated correctly, it will reflect upon the people’s conditions and surroundings, “the speaker suggests, hunger and poverty would not exist.” (Baird)
In a more religious approach, Ian McGreal’s article revolves more around God and what is he able to provide for the people. He expresses that the poems from the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience are the encounters with God through two different points of view. The innocents seem to just agree with anything God is creating but, the experience question why God makes such evil and corrupt animals and decisions. McGreal’s interpretation is that experienced is unable to understand God’s creations and the reasons why He made those items, “negating the positive values made possible by the divine.” (McGreal) The experienced is always against God, requesting for unexplained clarifications, for example, love is the root cause for evil and good which is comparable to how a tiger behaves viciously or gently. They believe that “evil as the darkness of the soul in alienation from God,” (McGreal) that if anything is associated with evil will always lean towards further negativism. Despite that, gaining experience also means learning knowledge which can be used to purify and cleanse the world to what the innocents see.
William Martin focuses his article over the way Blake writes and structures his poems. He indicates that gaps in between actual spoken words within Blake’s poems give the reader their entire imagination to fill in the missing details. For instance, in A Little Girl Lost, “ the adolescent girl stands mute before her parent, unable to give voice to the emotions she has experienced or to justify and explain her sexual awakening” (Martin 4) demonstrates how Blake uses silence to help intensify the moment. The reader’s imagination fills in that void of how their parents would react to that news; therefore, enabling them to connect with the poem on a deeper meaning. The speechless pauses throughout the poems is what gives it meaning, “their suffering is so immense that putting it into words could never do justice to the pain.” (Martin 5) Undescribable feelings are replaced with silence where they have the ability to convey feelings of grief and misery better.
Timothy Vines accounts for the Songs of Experience as “man’s cruelty and shrewd rationality, manifested in humanity’s current condition,” (Vines 117) tough to restore because humanity keeps sinking deeper into the abyss. Even divine forces could not stop this deteriorating process, exploitation of children was the only way the poor class could make money, straying the people further from God. He wanted to aid the working class who were exploited, suffering poverty, and stuck in the working class. Vines heavily supported the idea of rejoining God in paradise by releasing one’s soul would cleanse society. The world became so toxic that God’s supporters, the priests, were seen as a separate entity from God because they were both deceivers and being deceived. Blake’s intention with the poem sets were to challenge society’s views and hopefully reverse the missteps taken, reuniting humanity with God once again. Though his works were rejected, due to being too imaginary, “sacrificing accuracy for creativity” and “hindered by the general belief.” (Vines 120) Now, his works are seen as strong in “imaginative power and intense visual force” (Vines 121) strengthing the bond between reality and mythology.
All the writers have different interpretations of the message Blake’s poems are trying to convey to the reader. In a sense, Blake writes about seeing reality as it is without the bright colors relating his poems to religion. The writers talk about how God is being viewed in specifics, the reasons for why he created the things He did and whether he appears to be good or evil. Another common theme is the way that Blake writes his poems, basing it on emotions and implications that the readers make while reading.
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