Discuss the opposing states of the human soul in William Blake's "Songs of Innocence" and "Songs of Experience."

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sarahc418 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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If you look at the Songs of Innocence and the Songs of Experience, one of the most notable differences is the absence and presence of hope and the power of God's love. In the songs of experience, William Blake uses moods of gloom and despair. The contrast between the two

For example, in "The Chimney Sweeper" there is a poem version for both the song of innocence and the song of experience collections. The Chimney Sweeper in the Song of Innocence notes in the fifth stanza:

"Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind;
And the angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
He'd have God for his father, and never want joy" (Blake).

This quote, after detailing the difficult life of a chimney sweep in the previous stanzas, notes that even though the boy "weeps" as a bald-headed boy, he knows that God will reward the small children in heaven after the little boys' deaths. There is hope for the small boys here. In the complementary poem, The Chimney-Sweeper in the Song of Experience, William Blake portrays those who employ the boys in a harsh job as being God-praisers. They go off to church and "make heaven of our misery" illustrating that there is something corrupt and gloomy about their faith. Belief in a caring God is what those who are innocent believe, those who have experienced life know better than to believe in such naive views.

 

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