The Songs of Innocence poems first appeared in Blake’s 1784 novel, An Island in the Moon. In 1788, Blake began to compile in earnest, the collection of Songs of Innocence. And by 1789, this original volume of plates was complete. These poems are the products of the human mind in a state of innocence, imagination, and joy; natural euphoric feelings uninhibited or tainted by the outside world. Following the completion of the Songs of Innocence plates, Blake wrote The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and it is through this dilemma of good and evil and the suffering that he witnesses on the streets of London, that he begins composing Songs of Experience. This second volume serves as a response to Songs of Innocence in that Blake is demonstrating the two polar or contrary states of the human soul and in the world that he sees around him. The images, engravings, and lyrics in Songs of Experience are much more severe, excruciating, and intense in comparison to the lighter tones of Songs of Innocence.
When we look at the poems in Songs of Innocence and Experience, we see that while Blake reveals both the light and dark aspects of the human existence, we also see that this dichotomy is not always a finite, black and white generalization. That is, Blake emphasizes that both the innocent and experienced states of the human soul are achievable at any moment, regardless of age, past actions, or station in life. This reinforces the idea that Blake’s conception of God is the power of illumination in each one of us and it is through the poetic genius that we make this discovery throughout the ongoing process of life. A comparison between poems from each volume illustrates these ideas and serves to demonstra...
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...t, each of us can come to know God and understand our relationship with the universe through the discovery of our poetic genius. Blake’s methodology of channeling his spiritual energy through his work is accomplished through the combination of poetry, song, and visual art. This provides the reader with a full aesthetic experience that universally encourages the illumination of the human soul. Through his poems which identify various types of people and situations, Blake adds that this religious experience is not limited to the creative arts. In fact, he suggests that the poetic genius is attainable through focused manual labor, intellectual conversation, and philosophical reflection, among other activities. Man’s universal ability to find God through his poetic genius is Blake’s inspiration, philosophy, and theological message in Songs of Innocence and Experience.
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