William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience are collections of poems that utilize the imagery, instruction, and lives of children to make a larger social commentary. The use of child-centered themes in the two books allowed Blake to make a crucial commentary on his political and moral surroundings with deceptively simplistic and readable poetry. Utilizing these themes Blake criticized the church, attacking the hypocritical clergy and pointing out the ironies and cruelties found within the doctrines of organized religion. He wrote about the horrific working conditions of children as a means to magnify the inequality between the poor working class and the well to do aristocracy.
Blake was also able to comment upon social class distinctions by holding up children as the most poignant examples of the effects of that harsh disparity. Presenting such politically important criticism and revolutionary rebellion in the form of a child’s chap-book was a way for Blake to further expound his point. Parents would have been expected to read along with their child, and would have gained an unexpected perspective on the texts as they watched their children read the sometimes disturbing poems with the same innocence depicted in the poor (and frequently illiterate) lower class subjects. Through his poems, and the intended reading of the Songs, Blake presents children as the ideal examples of life that adults should strive to imitate, both in innocence and experience.
In several poems found in Songs of Experience and Innocence Blake presents the church, as well as religion, as corrupt and damaging to the innocence and purity of youth’s souls. The poe...
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Prickett, Stephen. “Romantic Literature.” The Romantics. Ed. Stephen Prickett. New York: Holmes and . Meier Publishers, 1981
Richardson, Alan. “Wordsworth, Fairy Tales, and the Politics of Children’s Reading.” Romanticism and . Children’s Literature in Nineteenth-Century England. Ed. James Holt McGavran Jr. Athens: . . . University of Georgia Press, 1991.
Trowbridge, Katelin E. “Blake’s A Little Girl Lost.” Explicator 54:3 (1996): 139-143.
Von Goethe, Johann W. “The Sorrows of Young Werther.” Romanticism. Ed. John B. Halsted. New . . York: Walker Publishing Company, 1969.
Woodman, Ross. “The Idiot Boy as Healer.” Romanticism and Children’s Literature in Nineteenth-. . . Century England. Ed. James Holt McGavran Jr. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991.
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