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Songs of Innocence and of Experience

In 1794 William Blake published his combined work Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
On a first level they were songs intended for children but together they were meant to show the two contrary states of the human soul.
The world of innocence is apparently full of joy and happiness, like the Garden of Eden, but its perfection is only apparent because it is flanked by the world of experience, that is tainted by selfishness , cruelty and injustice.
The Songs of Experience often shows similar subjects to those in the Songs of Innocence from a different point of view, but they can never be reconciled.
Songs of Innocence resemble a sort of heaven and the Songs of Experience a fallen world, therefore they are in relation, in fact they co-exist in the same person or situation.
Blake is the first to write poems in which the objects are children. He not only describes children in his songs but he is also interested in their world and in their states of mind.

Blake is also the first to denounce the exploitation of children, the poems however shows no trace of sentimentalism or explicit social criticism.


The Lamb

The poem is contained in the Songs of Innocence and it is an invocation to the lamb in the title. In the first stanza the lamb is shown as free and happy in an unspoiled environment. The lamb’s innocence and the perfect harmony of its existence make the poet ask “Who made thee?”. The answer comes in the second stanza where the traditional identification of the lamb with Christ is confirmed by the voice of the narrator-child. Both the child and the lamb are united in God’s name.

The Tyger
The poem is contained in the Songs of Experience and its object is considered the antithesis of the Lamb. “There isn’t the light without the darkness and the life without the death”.
The Tyger is frightening yet fascinating. The contrast here is between the darkness and flames and fire, fire is the link between the tiger’s strength and the metaphor of the last part of the song, where the tiger is seen as God’s creation. The poem ends with a question which casts a doubt on the possibility of understanding the universe through the senses and reason.

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