William Blake’s Poetry Demonstrates

11 November 2016

It is a collection of lessons that a person goes through during their lifetime. The contrast between innocence and experience is portrayed in Blake’s poems Infant Joy, Infant Sorrow and The Chimney Sweeper (innocence), The Chimney Sweeper (experience) through the use of metaphors, symbolism, imagery, juxtaposition, emotive language, repetition, alliteration and assonance. This essay will examine the notions of innocence and experience through references to the poetic techniques applied in the poems. Infant Joy is one of the poems by Blake which falls in the Songs of Innocence.

Notions of innocence are depicted in the poem through the way Blake has used language which resembles that of a child. The idea of innocence is also portray by the joyous and happy tone used throughout the poem. The child, who is the persona, verbalizes as if it is so grateful to be alive. This is also shown through the use of poetic techniques such as repetition. The reappearance of the words “sweet joy” gives a positive disposition as both represent happiness. The use of imagery is also evident when he writes “pretty joy! It provides us the visual of a very adorable baby and allows us to envision a newborn child, so naive and unaware of the dangers of this world. The technique Blake has used in structuring the poem sets it out in resemblance to a lullaby. The short sentences, simple words and optimistic language add to the notion of innocence as infancy and innocence are often associated with one another. Words such as: happy, sweet, joy, pretty, smile and sing, carry positive connotations and in using these within the poem, Blake has created a theme of cheerfulness and purity.

Blake uses similar techniques in The Chimney Sweeper (innocence) as he did in Infant Joy to portray the notions of innocence. He has once again used a child persona and simple language to identity the inexperience and purity in the poem. Poetic techniques such as symbolism, repetition, visual and aural imagery are used to assist in creating this theme of infancy and ingenuousness. There are many uses of symbolism throughout the poem. “And by came an Angel who had a bright key, and he opened the coffins and set them all free. ” This line holds two example of symbolism.

One being the bright key which symbolises freedom and hope for the chimney sweepers, the other being the coffins which represent their death and the actual chimney that the children would have usually died in. Repetition is seen in the line “could scarcely cry ‘Weep! Weep! Weep! Weep! ’” The use of repetition here emphasizes the youth of the child when its parents had sold them and also speaks for all the other chimney sweepers who had to be sold at a young age. The use of visual and aural imagery in the line “then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run, and wash in a river and shine in the Sun. identifies the happiness of the children as they have been set free from their chimneys. You can visual the children soaring and giggling across the green plain on a bright sunny day and see the big smiles on their faces as well as hear them laughing. The use of words such as: young and little create the theme of innocence in the poem. As William Blake is fascinated in the marriage of opposites, all of his songs of innocence partner with a song of experience. Infant Sorrow contrasts to Infant Joy as it holds negative connotations. This is done by setting a lost, hopeless, depressing and despairing tone.

This tone is created by poetic techniques such as visual and aural imagery, simile, and figurative language. Visual and aural imagery can be identified when the child is explaining how it was brought into the world. “piping loud” gives us a glimpse of what it was like when this happened and what an awful experience it was for the baby. A simile is used in the line “like a fiend hid in a cloud”. This is also the use of figurative language as the child is not literally like a demon in the cloud however it is implying that it feels that way.

The child senses that its parents are not very supportive of it being brought into the world and the child feels as though it is alone and will have to get by on its own without the love, support and comfort of its parents. That is why it has chosen to say it is like a fiend hid in a cloud because it feels out of place and on its own. The diction used in this poem demonstrates that it is a song of experience as it uses words such as: groaned, wept, dangerous, helpless, fiend and struggling.

These words give negative connotations and therefore add to the theme of hopelessness and desperation. The Chimney Sweeper (experience) uses similar techniques as Infant Sorrow to depict the notions of experience. Blake has set a resentful and bitter tone through the child persona as we hear about the child condemning its parents for their actions. Poetic techniques such as juxtaposition, metaphor and aural imagery are used to enhance these themes. “A little black thing among the snow” is the use of juxtaposition as it is contrasting ‘black’ and ‘snow’.

It is suggesting that the child is the little black thing as it is covered in soot from the chimneys, and is lying on the white snow. The theme of this poem is also portrayed when the child says “crying weep, weep, in notes of woe” this is an example of aural imagery as we can hear the child weeping. A metaphor is used in the line “who make up a heaven of our misery”. The child is conveying how its parents make up the heaven of our misery, implying that they are the heaven of our misery. This metaphor holds negative connotations as the child expresses how his parents are guilty of putting him in this misery.

The child’s parents act as if they are religious people when they would happily condemn their innocent child to this life. When analyzing the diction used in the poem, words such as: crying, weep, death, injury and misery can be found which demonstrates negative connotations. In conclusion, William Blake’s fascination with the marriage of opposites is clearly established in his poetry. The contrast between innocence and experience is clear in his songs of innocence and songs of experience as innocence is associated with youth and purity and experience is linked to sadness and despair.

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