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Songs of Innocence and of Experience

by William Blake

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Does Blake represent a world where there is no escape from political and social constraints in Songs of Innocence and Experience?

In Songs of Innocence and Experience, William Blake represents a world in which people's escape from political and social constraints is only ever temporary and brief. Young children may experience unconstrained joy, but this stage of life is soon over for everyone.

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In Songs of Innocence and of Experience, William Blake clearly includes some poems in which political and social constraints do not play a part. "Infant Joy" and "The Lamb" are two examples. In the former case, the child in the poem is only two days old and knows nothing...

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In Songs of Innocence and of Experience, William Blake clearly includes some poems in which political and social constraints do not play a part. "Infant Joy" and "The Lamb" are two examples. In the former case, the child in the poem is only two days old and knows nothing but joy. However, one of the ways in which Blake balances the joy and optimism of some poems in the Songs of Innocence is to provide them with counterparts in Songs of Experience. "Infant Joy" is balanced by "Infant Sorrow," in which the child is not only miserable, but immediately constrained:

Struggling in my fathers hands:
Striving against my swaddling bands:
Bound and weary I thought best
To sulk upon my mothers breast.

The hands of the child's father and the swaddling bands in which he is wrapped are symbols of the social bonds by which he is constrained. One cannot, however, say the same of "The Tyger," the poem which acts as counterpart to the innocence of "The Lamb." Here, the tiger is so impressively unconstrained that the poet wonders how anyone could have made it.

Unfortunately, the reader is not a tiger, and most of the subjects are not, either. For those without the tiger's natural advantages, escape from political and social constraints is only ever temporary. The youngest children may be able to remain innocent and unconstrained for a little while, but even Songs of Innocence, in poems such as "The Echoing Green" and "The Chimney Sweeper," shows that this carefree time soon gives way to harsh reality.

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