Poetry is written for readers to enjoy and learn morals. William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience uses poems to show societal ideals, often written in companion pieces to show different point of views. The first set of poems, “The Lamb” in Songs of Innocence and “The Tyger” in Songs of Experience, questions how the creator could possibly create two creatures of vast difference. The second set of poems both titled, “The Chimney Sweeper,” is written in different points of view of the life of a child chimneysweeper. The final set of poems, “Infant Joy” in Songs of Innocence and “Infant Sorrow” in Songs of Experience, shows the different points of view in regards to childbirth. By comparing and contrasting
William Blake’s companion poems, “The Lamb” and “The Tyger,” both poem’s titled, “The Chimney Sweeper,” and “Infant Joy” and “Infant Sorrow,” the different point of views of a common concept can be observed. The companion poems, “The Lamb” and “The Tyger,” link the idea of creation between the innocent and terrible to the creator. The companion pieces contrasts with length, while maintaining the same meter, and deeper analysis of the verses. “The Lamb” is trochaic, with two stanzas containing five rhyming couplets, while “The Tyger” is trochaic, with six stanzas containing two rhyming couplets. When comparing the poems, similarities can be seen between rhyme scheme, and the basis of the content by the narrator asking an animal if they are aware of who made it, questioning the general knowledge of the animals.
The rhyme scheme for both poems is AABBCCDD. The term, Lamb, can be connected to Jesus, who is the Lamb of God. The Songs of Innocence poem shows the connection that god shares the same name as the Lamb, which means that God is also a part of his creations themselves; this can be analyzed when Blake writes: “He is called by thy name / For he calls himself a Lamb” (lines 13-14). The child is linked to the lamb as well as God because all three started out young and innocent. “The Tyger” is a follow up or answer to the “The Lamb.”
The Songs of Experience poem continues the question of creation, yet furthers it, questioning how the same hand that creates an innocent creature can also create a fearsome animal like the tiger. When looking at both poems, it could suggest that the first poem, “The Lamb,” shows the gentile side of God, while the second, “The Tyger,” shows the vengeful side. The two poems continue the question of analysis of who made thee while “The Chimney Sweepers compares the point of view of a child sold into the chimney sweeping industry. William Blake titles one of his companion pieces the same, calling them “The Chimney Sweeper;” Blake writes about child chimney sweepers that were sold into a form of slavery. The poems contrast with the length, and the narrators’ point of view; the Songs of Innocence version is written in a child’s point of view, while the Songs of Experience is written in an adult’s.
The length of first poem has six stanzas with rhyming couplets, while the second poem has three stanzas with rhyming couplets; the rhyme scheme is AABB. The Songs of Innocence version has a child talking about the good side of being a chimney sweeper to his friend: “Hush Tom never mind it, for when your head’s bare / You know that the soot cannot spoil your while hair” (lines 7-8). Analyzing the poem, Blake writes that the only escape from this slavery is through death, with hope that there will be peace in the after life. Whereas the Songs of Experience has an adult chimneysweeper witnessing a child stained from the soot. He contrasts the child against the white snow: “A little black thing among the snow” (line 1).
This comparison between the child and snow shows that the child has lost a form of his innocence, pureness. This version shows the grim circumstances of a child being sold into work; however, this form of slavery is acceptable since the parents have the backing of the church and state. In comparison, the two companion poems have the same iambic meter and topic of child chimneysweepers. The two points of view of “The Chimney Sweeper” show the different perspectives of a grim situation; the companion pieces, “Infant Joy” and “Infant Sorrow” are portrayed through different points of view too, but in a different stage of life. William Blake uses two different perspectives to touch on the experience of childbirth in the poems, “Infant Joy” and “Infant Sorrow.”
The poems contrast their length, rhyme scheme, and premise, which is the experience in regards to childbirth. When looking at meter of poems, “Infant Joy” appears to vary between iambic and trochaic, while “Infant Sorrow’s” meter is iambic. The length differs between the poems; “Infant Joy” has two stanzas with three couplets, while “Infant Sorrow” has two stanzas, however, contains only two couplets; the rhyme scheme for “Infant Joy” is ABCAAC while “Infant Sorrow” is AABB. “Infant Joy” starts off with a child coming into the world aware it has no name; it moves into either self reflection or the mother wondering what to call the newborn.
The concept of a name is a person’s identity, as well as social identity. Joy can connected to the innocence and happiness a child can bring, as well as the mother’s hope for good omens to continue throughout the child’s life. Further analysis shows that Blake desires to see that humans can determine his own state of happiness instead of relying on others or society. In contrast, “Infant Sorrow,” begins with the painful aspects of childbirth that acknowledges the newborn is no longer in the safety of its mother’s womb. The struggling suggests that after childbirth, the child no longer has power over its self. The child does not want to be constrained by society but slowly gives in while growing up. “Infant Sorrow” starts off in the newborn’s point of view and continues to the end of the poem, while “Infant Joy” changes from newborn to mother. William Blake uses companion poems to compare the common themes that human beings experience.
“The Lamb” and “The Tyger” has similar form and rhyme while using the same question to wonder about the creator, using the Songs of Experience to further invest in the concept, while adding how the same person can create more fearsome opponent to the innocent lamb. In “The Chimney Sweeper,” the same concept of experience shows the difference between of perspective of the life as a chimneysweeper; the child shows the benefits of the life and potential freedom while the adult sees corruption. “Infant Joy” and “Infant Sorrow” allows the comparison between the positive and negative sides of childbirth: the happiness for the parents, and the fear of the child no longer being safe in its mother’s womb. Poetry can express a vast amount of concepts; William Blake brilliantly uses the concept of innocence and later experience as an insight of the same theme, allowing for growth and understanding.
Blake, William. “Songs of Innocence and of Experience.” Masters of British Literature, edited by David Damrosch and Kevin J. H. Dettmar, B, Pearson Longman, 2008, pp. 53–77.