Songs Of Experience

by William Blake

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Summarize "Holy Thursday" from Blake's Songs of Experience.

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As with many of Blake's poems from his Songs of Experience, "Holy Thursday" focuses on the misery of the children involved.  In most cases, the Church of England considers Christ's Ascension day to be called "Holy Thursday," (although some insist that "Holy Thursday" can also be the day before Good Friday).  In any event, during the late eighteenth century (when the poem was written), the children from the charity schools of London were marched to a service at St. Paul's Cathedral.  Unlike the angelic scene from Songs of Innocence, the speaker (although speaking of the land being "rich and fruitful") asks us a question regarding the misery of these children led to St. Paul's.  He asks if this is a holy thing to see these tiny children in their misery and hunger, led by beadles who rule over them harshly?  The speaker hears the children's "trembling cry" and is saddened at the knowledge that it's supposed to be a song and, at that, a song of joy.  No doubt, the children's great poverty is stressed in this poem.  In fact, by the second stanza the "land" has moved from being "rich and fruitful" to "a land of poverty."  By the third stanza, the poverty image is heightened.  The sun does not shine for these children.  The fields never yield a harvest for them and remain "bleak and bare."  Nature is full of hurtful "thorns."  The bleakness of winter is stressed as, for these poor children, "it is eternal winter there."  Finally, there is a reference to the aspects of life that the children are missing (and some say a description of the afterlife for them).  The speaker now speaks of a place where "the sun does shine" and where "the rain does fall" and where no child goes hungry.  This is a place where poverty does not abide.

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