An Understanding of William Blake’s Songs of Experience and Songs of Innocence
Childhood is a time in one’s life where innocence and experience are seemingly two separate worlds. Only when one becomes an adult, and has been thoroughly marked by experience, one realizes that innocence and experience resides in the same world. Innocence and experience are equivalent to the flipsides of a single coin. William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience demonstrate that religious doctrine and experience are responsible for destroying and understanding innocence in childhood.
In Blake’s poem “The Lamb” from Songs of Innocence, Blake proves that in order to keep innocence alive, a child must not question. It is in a child’s nature to trust all that has been told. Therefore the lamb represents childhood as well as innocence. The lamb is personified as being a gentle creature without sin, and the poem itself is characterized by pleasant light imagery. This imagery is an indicator that innocence is a desired state of being. In the first stanza of the poem, the narrator asks questions regarding creation “Little lamb who made thee? / Does thou know who made thee” (Blake 1-2). Instead of allowing the lamb to answer, the narrator answers his own questions in the second stanza. This means that during innocence, one is not supposed to question the nature of existence. Rather, they must accept the answers given by those with experience. This reassurance is intended to give comfort, and prevent the innocent from worrying. As children grow older, they will not question religious doctrines as they had been already, without doubt, planted into their minds. As a consequence, the innocent will never be able...
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...d king/ Who make up a heaven of our misery” (10-12). Blake proves that those with power are committing hypocrisy. Religious doctrine does not save children from misery. Rather, religion is used to imprison and trap children into obedience. Once experience beings to awaken within, the child will realize that he has been wronged. Nevertheless, he will do nothing because of the rigorous conditioning carried out by hypocritical adults.
When one imagines childhood, it is common to separate the world of innocence and experience. In all reality, innocence and experience are continuously present side by side. Experience and religious doctrine hold more power, and for that reason, innocence is a vulnerable fleeting state. Nevertheless, as innocence and experience share duality, it is essential that they both exist in order to reach a deeper understanding of life itself.
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