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William Blake


Blake wrote “Songs of Innocence” (peace) and “Songs of Experience” (corruption).
“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is a book where he illustrates his principal of world, the theory of opposites. Blake says: “Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate are necessary to human existence. From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil.” He says that both are necessary, the problem is their balance.
His idea of imagination is a sort of ‘Divine Vision’; it means ‘to see more, beyond material reality, into life of things’. So the poet becomes a sort of prophet who can see more deeply into reality and who also tries to warn men of evils of society.
Blake was actually concerned with the political and social problems of his time: he supported the abolition of slavery, and the egalitarian principles of French Revolution. Later he focused his attention on the evil consequences of the Industrial Revolution.
Blake’s poems have a very simple structure and a great use of symbols. His verses are linear and rhythmical, it shows a close relationship between sound and meaning and it is characterised by a frequent use of repetitions.

The Lamb (Songs of Innocence)

The first difference between “The Tyger” and “The Lamb” is that if “The Tyger” is built on rhetoric question, there questions are followed by answers in the second stanza.
Lamb a sense of tenderness, peace, mildness
Tiger fire, energy, a sense of magnificence, fear, aggressiveness, cruelty, fierce
In this poem three characters are involved: a child (the person who is speaking), a lamb (that is addressed the poem), and Christ. (By saying “God” you can mean God the Father, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit).
The atmosphere gives a sense of harmony, peace, happiness, enjoy…
In spite of the simplicity of the language, that is child-like, this poem is built on a deep symbolism.
(Childish ≠ child-like).
Symbolism:
Child: Exploited victim of Industrial Revolution. By considering Blake’s idea of innocence and corruption, child while becoming an adult becomes a victim of corruption.
Lamb: In ancient time it was a victim of sacrifice in religious rituals.
Christ: Christ sacrificed himself to save man-kind.
They all have in common the theme of ‘sacrifice’.

LONDON (Songs of Experience)

This is a committed ) poem. This poem shows Blake’s view of London and of the suffering brought about by industrialisation.
The person who is speaking is the poet and the setting in place and time is London suburb at midnight. The poet perceives the sorrowful, miserable, appalling scene (caused by poverty, misery and fatigue) through sight and hearing.
The repetitions which Blake uses in the poem are made to underline the condition of suffering and disease surrounding the poet and to create a sense of obsession and anxiety.
The word ‘chartered’ is related to an idea of corruption, materialism, business of a commercial city. It underlines that also natural elements are dominated, controlled by an economic interest, a profit.
There is a very powerful metaphor: ‘the mind-forged manacles’. It suggests an idea of imprisonment, mental slavery, oppression, a sense of limit in imagination, a let of freedom in political repression of that time. The manacles are created by a general political attitude, by social institutions.
The rhyme scheme is regular (ABAB-CDCD…).
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