While poetry covers an array of topics one author stands alone, William Blake. He wrote about many different things during his life. Blake was known well in some circles during his life, but his name did not become well-known overall until well after his death. His works speak to a large audience about maturation, innocence, society, religion, and many other ideas.
He is most well-known for his comparison of innocence and experience. In Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience” we see that experience and age are not parallel, but shift depending on circumstance. His poems “Infant Joy” and “Infant Sorrow” are an example of experience regardless of age. In “Infant Sorrow” Blake expresses the harsh pains of being born through the eyes of a newly born infant, while in “Infant Joy” a baby is blissfully ignorant of the pains of life being a few days old. These poems each hold their own merit as amazing poetic pieces. The thing that makes them unique, along with many other works by Blake is the illustrations. Blake spent several years as an engraver, and commissioned several handmade copies of his illustrated works. His illustrations give more of what Blake envisioned as he dreamed up his poems of innocence and experience.
Blake also comments on organized religion in “Songs of Innocence and Experience” through two poems both titled “Holy Thursday.” Here Blake expresses his reverence for the divine, “Then cherish pity lest you drive an angel from your door” (184), and his hatred for organized religion, “Babes reduced to misery (190.) Blake was known as an eccentric by many because of his openness about seeing God and holy figures during his life, but he found no soundness in religion on the whole. This is largely due to the politics associated with religion. His view here also relates to his views on society and the hierarchy of life.
Throughout his works Blake considers the many implications of knowledge and experience. While he finds that innocence can be cherished it should not be taken for granted or hid behind. Similarly experience can improve life or cause strife. Blake uses his poetry to give the reader a viewpoint from which to explore these ideas and make a stance. Blake found himself in a world that was very much at war with itself. He was very aware of this, and wrote about the experience of life as it changes around us.
Blake, William.“Songs of Innocence and Experience.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature. 4th ed. Damrosch, David, and Kevin J.H. Dettmar. New York: Pearson Education Inc., 2010. 176-203. Print.
Damrosch, David, and Kevin J.H. Dettmar. “William Blake.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature. 4th ed. Damrosch, David, and Kevin J.H. Dettmar. New York: Pearson Education Inc., 2010. 169-171. Print.