In Songs of Innocence, Blake uses nature to show an idealised state of love, where the love is natural, harmonious and mutually beneficial. The poem Introduction imprints an image of a piper ‘piping down the valleys wild’ in the reader’s mind. Straight away there is a theme of freedom with the valleys being ‘wild’. This evokes images of nature and freedom, which is a common element with Romantic poets as they opposed the Industrial Revolution happening at that time, as the poets felt that nature was being repressed instead of celebrated. ‘Piping’ suggests a musical tone to express the harmonious relationship between nature and man. In addition, Blake uses nature as a strand for sexual love, as in The Blossom. The poem is a celebration of fertility and the natural life cycle, which contrasts the view of sex in the 18th century, where sex was something to be hidden. ‘Under leaves so green’ connotes images of thriving plants to emphasise the natural physical love in the world, this is twinned with phallic symbols for instance ‘sees you swift as arrow’ creates a sense of sexual urgency.
Mutual support and harmony
Blake continues the theme of mutual love in nature throughout poems in Songs of Innocence with The Shepherd who ‘follows his sheep all the day’. This presents an inverted authority figure as nature is shown to be leading the shepherd, which Blake chooses because the sheep gain protection and the shepherd attains happiness. In the poem Introduction the child orders ‘Piper pipe that song again – so I piped, he wept to hear’, as the piper indulges the child’s request, Blake represents a symbiotic bond between man and the inverted authority figure. Blake presents a supportive relationship between God and man in the poem The Divine Image to express how everybody has ‘Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love’ as their base emotions, no matter who they are, showing that everyone is equal – which is also a theme presented later in the poem as ‘every man in every clime’ prays to the ‘human form divine’ of which is Blake’s form of Christianity where God is within the human form.
Fragility of love
Even in the first poem of Songs of Innocence, Introduction, there is a theme of fragility of idealised love. There is an antithesis where the piper ‘stain’d the water clear’ and Howard Justin remarks ne, "And I stain'd the water clear," which should be glossed as both "by dipping my pen in the water, I stained it," and "I stained the water into clarity." Howard Justin interprets the "pen" as art, and the "water" as nature; thus Blake is claiming that art leaves a blemish upon nature, and that art (though itself a blemish) stains nature into clarity Urban setting/decay in nature
Blake’s The Sick Rose deals explicitly with the corruption of love. Blake addresses the rose, but with the use of a caesura, he adds emphasis on the exploitation of the rose. The rose represents the innocence of love and fertility but is then described as ‘sick’ due to the corruption of this love by ‘the invisible worm’. The ‘worm’ is symbolised as phallic, because in Blake’s time, there was a lot of teenage prostitution in London, which may have influenced Blake in writing this poem; it is also associated with the biblical serpent from the Garden of Eden, as they are both linked with temptation and sin. Blake labels the worm as ‘invisible’ to emphasise that the corruption of love at the time was being hidden away from society’s disapproving eye, this further corrupts the rose making it ‘sick’. As the worm ‘flies in the night’ this provides images of disease and corruption spreading fast in the dark streets of urbanised London withering away the beautiful rose, this is opposite to The Blossom in Songs of Innocence as the sparrow and robin stay and seek protection ‘under leaves so green’ of the tree, in a completely natural setting, in a way that love should be celebrated as natural. Furthermore, the worm and the rose are ‘in the howling storm’ where onomatopoeia is used to emphasise the sadness of the exploited rose, the traditional symbol of beauty, love, romance and passion; and the destructive ‘storm’ from the ‘worm’ and its path.