Infant Joy Notes
This simple poem is two stanzas of six lines each. The two stanzas each follow an ABCDDC rhyme scheme, a contrast to most of Blake's other poetic patterns. The rhyming words are always framed by the repetition of "thee" at the end of the fourth and sixth lines, drawing the reader's attention to the parent, who speaks, and his or her concern with the baby. The infant's words, or those imagined by the parent to be spoken by the infant, are set off with dashes at the end of each line, turning this short poem into a dialogue between parent and child regarding the naming of the baby. That the baby names itself reflects Blake’s desire to see the human spirit determine its own state of bliss, rather than to rely upon a form of happiness imposed upon it by social constructs or religious institutions. This baby is the perfect innocent who, when left alone to determine its own nature, find joy rather than guilt or repression within.
The last three lines of the second stanza speak to the innocence of the child. “Thou dost smile, I sing the while; Sweet joy befall thee!” The presence of smiling, singing, and being joyous gleam with those innocent happy days only the adults remember of the two year old. The presence of the I is either Blake pretending to recollect his childhood or simply just using his observations of children or a specific child to draw upon. The words joy, happy, and sweet are sprinkled delicately throughout the poem to enhance the notion of the content nature of the two year old child. This repetition and presence calls to the attention of perpetual happiness. Though these factors can be tied to innocence which leads to vulnerability, the happiness of the child may also stand alone within the internal nature of the child. Blake is arguing that to be young and without a label, is to be happy. It is to be perpetually joyous. The first stanza calls for this interpretation, “'I have no name; I am but two days old.' What shall I call thee? I happy am, Joy is my name.'”
'I have no name; (no identity) I am but two days old.' (pure, innocent, happy, naivety of innocence) What shall I call thee? 'I happy am, (no problems or responsibility) Joy is my name.' Sweet joy befalls thee! (Irony/ won’t live in joy/ child’s prayer)
Pretty joy! Sweet joy, but two days old. (Still pure and innocent) Sweet Joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile, (fake smile, can’t understand the pain). I sing the while; (momentarily / will vanish) Sweet joy befalls thee! (Sense of irony repeated).
Blake emphasizes the sense of naïve.
The Chimney Sweeper (Songs Of Innocence) Notes:
“The Chimney Sweeper” comprises six quatrains, each following the AABB rhyme scheme, with two rhyming couplets per quatrain. The first stanza introduces the speaker, a young boy who has been forced by circumstances into the hazardous occupation of chimney sweeper. The second stanza introduces Tom Dacre, a fellow chimney sweep who acts as a foil to the speaker. Tom is upset about his lot in life, so the speaker comforts him until he falls asleep. The next three stanzas recount Tom Dacre's somewhat apocalyptic dream of the chimney sweepers’ “heaven.” However, the final stanza finds Tom waking up the following morning, with him and the speaker still trapped in their dangerous line of work.
There is a hint of criticism here in Tom Dacre's dream and in the boys' subsequent actions, however. Blake decries the use of promised future happiness as a way of subduing the oppressed. The boys carry on with their terrible, probably fatal work because of their hope in a future where their circumstances will be set right. This same promise was often used by those in power to maintain the status quo so that workers and the weak...