26 April 2013
Innocence and Experience
During the Romantic Age, many poets focused on connecting with their audience on a deeper level by writing about mundane topics. William Blake exemplifies this characteristic of Romantic Age poets with his use of animals, cities, and everyday jobs, such as the chimney sweeps. By using such relatable topics, Blake’s audience is able to better understand the comparisons included in his Songs of Innocence and his Songs of Experience. William Blake’s poems, “The Little Lamb”, from Songs of Innocence, and “The Tyger”, from Songs of Experience, are similar and contrasting through Blake’s incorporation of nature, human emotion, and biblical allusions, which were characteristics of the Romantic Age.
William Blake creates a comparison between the innocence of “The Little Lamb”, and the experience of “The Tyger”, by using elements of nature to show similar and different characteristics of the lamb and the tyger. In “The Little Lamb”, Blake refers to parts of nature such as the “stream” and the “wooly, bright” wool of the lamb. The stream relates to water, which translates to purity and the figurative sense of washing away sins and evilness. The bright wool of the lamb creates the image of pure whiteness, lending to the innocence and purity of the lamb. On the contrasting hand, “The Tyger” contains much more vivid and dark incorporations of nature. The poem begins with “Tyger! burning bright in the forests of night…” (Giola McCarthy 2
& Kennedy, 1149). From the beginning, a feeling of evil and fear comes over the reader, which is quite the opposite of the overall atmosphere of “The Little Lamb”. The main contribution that nature possesses for this comparison is the concept of good versus evil. Blake uses nature in “The Little Lamb” to paint a picture of pureness and innocence. The lamb, which could translate to an innocent child, not yet exposed to the cruel reality, represents the good in the corrupt world. On the subject matter, Louis Untermeyer described Blake’s Songs of Innocence as “…not only happy, but simple hearted. Childlike… the objects of the visible world are seen with candid pleasure and stated with frank delight.” (290) On the other side, the tyger, represents all things experienced and vicious. Untermeyer comments that in contrast of innocence, for experience there is “no protection; heedless delight, and unrestrained pleasure [that] gives way to acceptance of pain.” (292) Instead of being oblivious to the evils of the world, experience “first discovers evil and then is forced to accept it.” (Untermeyer, 292) Although nature mostly contributes to the differences of the poems, it also lends help to creating similarities. Nature evokes human relation to the lamb and the tyger, since they are both creatures and understandable concepts. Although quite different, “Blake pits the ‘fearful symmetry’ and burning brilliance of the tyger against the placid lamb, and finds both equally beautiful, equally framed by the ‘immortal hand and eye’.” (Untermeyer, 292) Overall, Blake intended for the contrasts in “The Little Lamb” and “The Tyger” to create “a continual union of opposites, a fusion of innocence and experience, good and evil, flesh and spirit.” (Untermeyer, 292) McCarthy 3
Human emotion plays a key role in the development of the lamb and the tyger’s comparison, which Blake creates through imagery and diction. Blake was very talented and “…his work, like his life, fluctuated between the world of pure vision and the world of brute violence.” (Untermeyer, 293) Imagery used in “The Little Lamb” creates calmness and confidence that there is hope for the world and still ensures that there is purity among all of the corruption. References to the “clothing of delight”, the “tender voice”, and the “vales rejoice”, inscribe happiness and exaltations to the reader’s emotions. “A lamb… [is a] common [subject] that becomes a universal symbol.”...