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 Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul Okay Four stars I ve read the Songs along with a wonderful commentary by Alan Tomlinson, who juxtaposes contrary poems from Innocence and Experience and explains them in relation to one another More on his book in a review later Here s what I think of the Songs First, a confession I ve read them out loud like an idiot, savoring the crunchy taste of consonants and breathing through the vowels, dancing with some of the poems the pretty ones and enjoying the high and low of raising and lowering my pitch for the sake of expression and for fun really I think I just wanted to bring the poems into life Give them weight and feeling Why Because Blake wrote them with the passionate and imaginative voice of Romanticism He etched and engraved the poems with paintings He sung them out loud to be set to music in defiance of the stern rationalism of Enlightenment and the church The effort he put into his work was just amazing Nothing passive about him My advice be an idiot like me and read them out loud And if you can, bring someone to do it with you But for heaven s sake, don t read them passively in silence I think this was the whole point of Romanticism, to bring feeling and sensation back to life To reawaken the senses that have been blocked by too much emphasis on reason, on the head.All the painting, the engraving, the etching and the writing all testify how much Blake was moved by his work, how much feeling he put into it.Here s a favorite specimen of mine TO TIRZAHWhate er is born of mortal birthMust be consum d with the earth,To rise from generation free Then what have I to do with thee The sexes sprung from shame and pride,Blowed in the morn, in evening died But mercy changed death into sleep The sexes rose to work and weep.Thou, mother of my mortal part,With cruelty didst mould my heart,And with false self deceiving tearsDidst bind my nostrils, eyes, and ears,Didst close my tongue in senseless clay,And me to mortal life betray.The death of Jesus set me free Then what have I to do with thee Folly is an endless maze Tangled roots perplex her ways How many have fallen there They stumble all night over bones of the dead And feel they know not what but care And wish to lead others, when they should be led. William Blake, The Voice of the Ancient Bard The smile of a child The face of a lamb The purity of maternal love Solidarity These are images chosen by Blake to convey his thoughts on innocence When I think of innocence, I cannot help picturing in my head the greenest meadows, sheltered by the warm light of the sun, and the sound of a nearby river serving as a mirror to reflect your own thoughts Such an idyllic setting is an invitation to contemplate your own soul For me, the countryside is where anything can happen I feel hopeful I find rest I make time stand still I see bliss And I accept the countryside s cruelty on a dark, rainy day That is the inevitable dichotomy of any form of life.Innocence To see the world through the eyes of a child Something so necessary, and so distant Something that we lose too soon, now.Simply too soon.Laughing SongWhen the green woods laugh with the voice of joy,And the dimpling stream runs laughing by When the air does laugh with our merry wit,And the green hill laughs with the noise of it When the meadows laugh with lively green,And the grasshopper laughs in the merry scene When Mary and Susan and EmilyWith their sweet round mouths sing Ha ha he When the painted birds laugh in the shade,Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread Come live, and be merry, and join with me,To sing the sweet chorus of Ha ha he 10 NightThe sun descending in the West,The evening star does shine The birds are silent in their nest,And I must seek for mine.The moon, like a flowerIn heaven s high bower,With silent delight,Sits and smiles on the night.Farewell, green fields and happy groves,Where flocks have took delight,Where lambs have nibbled, silent movesThe feet of angels bright Unseen, they pour blessing,And joy without ceasing,On each bud and blossom,And each sleeping bosom 14 Different perspectives The pain of adulthood The fight between love and selfishness The corruption of innocence and our salvation Our preservation the world will not eat us alive apparently The fear of what is to come Of the unknown The gray despair of aging These are some of the images of Blake s Experience The Clod and the Pebble Love seeketh not itself to please,Nor for itself hath any care,But for another gives its ease,And builds a heaven in hell s despair So sung a little clod of clay,Trodden with the cattle s feet,But a pebble of the brookWarbled out these metres meet Love seeketh only Self to please,To bind another to its delight,Joys in another s loss of ease,And builds a hell in heaven s despite 23 Ah, sunflowerAh, sunflower, weary of time,Who countest the steps of the sun Seeking after that sweet golden climeWhere the traveller s journey is done Where the Youth pined away with desire,And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,Arise from their graves, and aspireWhere my Sunflower wishes to go 36 LondonI wander through each chartered street,Near where the chartered Thames does flow,A mark in every face I meet,Marks of weakness, marks of woe.In every cry of every man,In every infant s cry of fear,In every voice, in every ban,The mind forged manacles I hear How the chimney sweeper s cryEvery blackening church appals,And the hapless soldier s sighRuns in blood down palace walls.But most, through midnight streets I hearHow the youthful harlot s curseBlasts the new born infant s tear,And blights with plagues the marriage hearse 40 The lyrical voice of this fine poet stands out for its apparent simplicity Blake knew his surroundings too well He was aware of the social and political situation of his time as well as the spiritual concerns of human beings And he transferred them to his pages to make them immortal His sensitive and evocative poetry can conquer the most anxious soul and give it an ideal place to rest for a while.Jul 30, 14 Also on my blog. Tyger Tyger burning bright, In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry I don t think I would dare give any collection of poems that contains the above lines anything less than five stars Luckily, although every poem isn t a winner for me cough Laughing Song cough , there are so many immortal poems in this collection that I don t feel the least bit guilty for giving the collection the full five stars I started collecting some of my favorite lines to put in this review not even the whole poem in many cases , and when I got to three pages in Word I realized I would have to restrain myself from posting half the collection in this review This review is still going to be on the long side, but you ll have to just deal William Blake, one of the most well known authors of the Romantic era, published this short collection of poems or songs in the late 1700s The full title was Songs of Innocence and of Experience Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul, which aptly describes the dichotomy echoed in most of these poems, with innocent Christian belief and pastoral joy in the foreground in the nineteen Songs of Innocence, and dark cynicism, criticism of man s institutions including churches , and even despair playing a prominent role in the twenty seven Songs of Experience In fact, many of the poems in the Innocence set have their darker counterpart in the Experience set So you go from The Lamb Little Lamb, who made thee Dost thou know who made thee Little Lamb, I ll tell thee, Little Lamb, I ll tell thee, He is called by thy name, For he calls himself a Lamb He is meek, he is mild He became a little child I a child, thou a lamb, We are called by his name.to The Tyger When the stars threw down their spears, And water d heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see Did he who made the Lamb make thee Even in the lighthearted Songs of Innocence, often than not there s a dark undercurrent, a hint or sometimes a slap across the face that the narrator of the poem is being unintentionally ironic The Little Black Boy My mother bore me in the southern wild, And I am black, but O my soul is white White as an angel is the English child, But I am black, as if bereav d of light And thus I say to little English boy When I from black and he from white cloud free, And round the tent of God like lambs we joy, I ll shade him from the heat, till he can bear To lean in joy upon our father s knee And then I ll stand and stroke his silver hair, And be like him, and he will then love me.That last line is a heartbreaker Even though the black boy sees that the white child is equally under a cloud, he still can t imagine being accepted by him until he looks like him.Similarly, we have The Chimney Sweeper, where the young boys sold by their destitute families to be chimney sweepers assistants a terrible, cold, dirty job aptly cry weep in their childish lisps instead of sweep When my mother died I was very young, And my father sold me while yet my tongue Could scarcely cry weep weep weep weep So your chimneys I sweep, in soot I sleep There s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head, That curl d like a lamb s back, was shav d so I said Hush, Tom never mind it, for when you head s bare You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair And so he was quiet, that very night, As Tom was a sleeping, he had such a sight That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, Jack, Were all of them lock d up in coffins of black And by came an Angel who had a bright key, And he open d the coffins set them free Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run, And wash in a river, and shine in the Sun Then naked white, all their bags left behind, They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind And the Angel told Tom, if he d be a good boy, He d have God for his father, never want joy And so Tom awoke and we rose in the dark, And got with our bags our brushes to work, Tho the morning was cold, Tom was happy warm, So if all do their duty they need not fear harm.Such an indictment of those who mistreat children and the less fortunate among us This next one has stuck with my since I studied it in college Even if you have Christian beliefs as I do , you have to admit that the institutions of churches have often been misused by those in power The last lines are haunting The Garden of Love I went to the Garden of Love, And saw what I never had seen A Chapel was built in the midst, Where I used to play on the green And the gates of this Chapel were shut, And Thou shalt not writ over the door So I turn d to the Garden of Love That so many sweet flowers bore And I saw it was filled with graves, And tomb stones where flowers should be And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds, And binding with briars my joys desires Notice how the meter and rhyme change in those last two lines there s something inexorable about it.A few I appreciate the insight into the effects of anger and grudges offered by A Poison Tree I was angry with my friend I told my wrath, my wrath did end I was angry with my foe I told it not, my wrath did grow.And I water d it in fears, Night morning with my tears And I sunned it with smiles, And with soft deceitful wiles And it grew both day and night, Till it bore an apple bright And my foe beheld it shine, And he knew that it was mine, And into my garden stole When the night had veil d the pole In the morning glad I see My foe outstretch d beneath the tree.And the stultifying strictures and chains of society get a knock in London I wander thro each charter d street, Near where the charter d Thames does flow, And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness, marks of woe.In every cry of every Man, In every Infant s cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, The mind forg d manacles I hear.I ll go back to the Songs of Innocence to end on a hopeful note On Another s Sorrow Can I see another s woe, And not be in sorrow too Can I see another s grief, And not seek for kind relief Can I see a falling tear, And not feel my sorrow s share Can a father see his child Weep, nor be with sorrow fill d He doth give his joy to all He becomes an infant small He becomes a man of woe He doth feel the sorrow too Think not thou canst sigh a sigh And thy maker is not by Think not thou canst weep a tear And thy maker is not near O he gives to us his joy That our grief he may destroy Till our grief is fled gone He doth sit by us and moan.I highly recommend this collection, and you can find copies of it free all over the web.A couple of notes on bonus material When this book was originally published, each poem was handwritten by Blake on a separate page with an original painting that he did to go with that poem For example They re worth looking up, and often add to understanding of the meaning or intent of the poem.Also, many of these Songs of Innocence and of Experience actually were songs at least some of them were set to music As far as I m aware none of the original tunes used by Blake have survived, but different people since have tried their hand at setting some of them to music, with varying results Wikipedia links several of these modern song versions of the poems I haven t checked them out yet, but if I find any good ones I ll link them here.2016 Classic Bingo Challenge 5 down, 19 to go. Billy Blake Who Made Thee Poet Poet, burning bright, In the stanzas of the night What romantic coquetry, Could frame thy fearful poetry In what distant when or whys, roll d the epic of thine eyes On wet verse dare he aspire What poet s hand, robs Shelly s pyre And what meter, what art,Could twist the cadence of thy heart And when thy heart began to beat,What dread iambs what dread feet What the motif what the type, In what belly was thy gripe What the image what simile, Dare its deadly metaphors be When all critics threw down their pens And water d heaven twixt now and then Did Marx his smile his classes see Did he who made cultural criticism make thee Poet Poet, burning bright, In the stanzas of the night What romantic coquetry, Could frame thy fearful poetry I adore William Blake s poetry and this illustrated collection is fantastic Unlike other British poets from centuries back like John Donne for example , his text is usually far easier to read even without a thesaurus and always delightful and full of imagery a Must Well, one lousy review can t do Blake s poems any justice, not unless you re flush with time and the soul of a poet, yourself I can say, however, that the title kinda gives the whole gig away The first section is rife with allusions to Jesus and the second is full of wry and rather sarcastic religious revolutionary insights that I clearly appreciate much than the innocent ones Yes, love should be shown No, life should not be this dreary and repressed thing I particularly love how Blake uses limited PoV narrations, from a little child or an old bard The mirroring of both characters and themes really does a big number on both types of poetry I only wish I was reading it with the engravings Such classics Well worth the Experience Everyone should Experience it. My first brush with Blake was through the impeccable poem London than a decade back Since then, I d got to read poems of his, all carefully chosen by the academicians, quickly putting him in my list of favorite poets Then before I reached my twenties, I read this little collection, and liked it immensely Songs of Innocence was what I was looking for, with its na ve outlook on life, the idyllic pictures of innocence I was unwilling to leave behind on my trek to youth I was enad and still am by the introductory pieceview spoiler Piping down the valleys wild Piping songs of pleasant glee On a cloud I saw a child And he laughing said to me Pipe a song about a Lamb So I piped with merry chear, Piper pipe that song again So I piped, he wept to hear Drop thy pipe thy happy pipe Sing thy songs of happy chear, So I sung the same again While he wept with joy to hear.Piper sit thee down and write In a book that all may read So he vanish d from my sight And I pluck d a hollow reed And I made a rural pen, And I stain d the water clear, And I wrote my happy songs Every child may joy to hear hide spoiler That moment when your favorite Tv Show makes you read Romantic poetry of the 18th century. I have to admit that I rarely read poetry, not because I don t want to but mostly because my library usually doesn t have the kind of poetry that I long for So imagine my surprise when I found this little new gem in between one of my beloved and already so very familiar bookshelves It was love at first sight and I don t regret anything 3O Rose, thou art sick.The invisible worm,That flies in the nightIn the howling storm Has found out thy bedOf crimson joy And his dark secret loveDoes thy life destroyThe Sick RoseWilliam Blake is definitely one of my favourite poets and I can recommend this to everyone who doesn t only like his poetry but also appreciates his art P.S A Poison Tree , The Tyger and London are really good as well Songs Of Innocence And Of Experience Is An Illustrated Collection Of Poems By William Blake It Appeared In Two Phases A Few First Copies Were Printed And Illuminated By William Blake Himself In Five Years Later He Bound These Poems With A Set Of New Poems In A Volume Titled Songs Of Innocence And Of Experience Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul


About the Author: William Blake

William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake s work is today considered seminal and significant in the history of both poetry and the visual arts.Blake s prophetic poetry has been said to form what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the language His visual artistry has led one modern critic to proclaim h


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