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Songs of Innocence and of Experience

by William Blake

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Is anger a predominant theme in "Songs of Experience"?

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Your question covers a tremendous amount of territory, asking about the collection of poems by Blake, Songs of Experience.  Yet you ask for a detailed answer.  That's difficult in this forum of relatively short answers.  I'll answer giving you much detail about one particular poem, and let other editors deal with the collection as a whole.

No, anger is not predominant in William Blake's "The Tyger."  Awe and reverence and wonder are dominant.

The poem focuses on the creator and the tyger.  The speaker is not angry at the creator, though, nor is the speaker angry at the tyger.  The speaker is in awe that a creator could make a beast with such "fearful symmetry," with such "fire" in its eyes.  The speaker wonders at a creator that could "twist the sinews" of the heart of the great beast, and at the blacksmith (figuratively speaking) that could form a beast capable of such "deadly terrors." 

When studied in conjunction with its companion poem, "The Lamb," the tyger, or any large, ferocious cat, is contrasted with the meek, mild, innocent lamb.  The tyger is the opposite of the lamb.  If the lamb is innocence, the tyger is experience.  And the speaker's point is that the same creator that made the lamb made the tyger.  They are two sides of the same creator, and by extension, two sides of nature and existence and humans.  Humans consist of oppositions, and therefore oppositions are not really oppositions.  Humans consist of a mixture of good and evil, innocence and experience.  Dichotomies do not exist, for Blake.  People are not totally good or totally evil--we are mixtures. 

Blake is also interested in perspectives, vantage points, points of view.  The lamb and the tyger also present different perspectives of the creator and of existence.

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In Songs of Innocence and Experience, do you think that anger is the predominant note in The Songs of Experience?  

This is a very interesting question that is rather difficult to answer. To summarise my feelings, whilst I think we can identify anger in a large number of the Songs of Experience, I don't think we can say that it is the universal tone of this collection of poems, as some of them focus on other emotions, such as wonder, admiration or confusion.

Let me expand on this brief summary. If we consider a poem such as "The Chimney Sweeper," it is clear that anger can be identified as the predominant tone through the final stanza:

"And because I am happy, and dance and sing,

They think they have done me no injury,

And are gone to praise God and his Priest and King,

Who make up a heaven of our misery."

The bitterness and anger in these last lines, delivered by the poor "thing among the snow," is self-evident as a system comprising of God, priest and king is blamed for the poverty and misery of this chimney sweep. We see anger at such institutional structures that create poverty and suffering throughout many of the poems in Songs of Experience. However, the reason I don't think we are able to state with any certainty that this is a universal characteristic of these poems is that there are a few, like "The Tyger," that do not display any noticeable anger. The speaker instead seems to view the tiger with a mix of wonder, admiration and fear. There is something of the simultaneous attraction toward and repulsion from evil symbolised in the tiger, as the speaker finds the tiger both magnificent and terrifying:

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame they fearful symmetry?

Thus I think we can safely conclude that anger is a feature of many of the poems from this exciting collection, but we should be wary of trying to reduce this challenging selection of poems into any firm categories that would limit their scope and our understanding of them.

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