How is symbolism used in "Infant Sorrow" by William Blake?

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This poem is about a baby being born into a world of poverty. It is taken from the collection of poetry entitled Songs of Innocence and of Experience . The poems in the first half of this collection are about the innocence of childhood and the beauty and healing power...

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This poem is about a baby being born into a world of poverty. It is taken from the collection of poetry entitled Songs of Innocence and of Experience. The poems in the first half of this collection are about the innocence of childhood and the beauty and healing power of nature, and the poems in the second half are about how childhood becomes corrupted by the adult world and nature is ruined by industrialization. "Infant Sorrow" is a poem from the second half of the collection.

In the third line of the first stanza, the image of the baby being born "Helpless, naked" symbolically represents the vulnerability of the working-class child at this time. The working-class child in the late eighteenth century in England would not have lived a very good life. It was, for such a child, a "dangerous world." Children as young as four, for example, would be employed as chimney sweeps. This is perhaps why, in the first line of the poem, the father "wept."

The closing line of the first stanza, "Like a fiend hid in a cloud," represents the energy and potential of a newborn baby lost amidst the "cloud" of the circumstances he is born into. For Blake, a "fiend" was not an evil thing, but rather an embodiment of spirit and energy. The "cloud" represents the obfuscation of that energy, created by the inhibiting social circumstances into which the baby is born.

In the second stanza, the image of the "swaddling bands" against which the baby struggles literally refers to the blankets or cloth used to wrap babies, but symbolically these bands foreshadow the restraints of working-class life that the baby will forever be restrained by. The point is emphasized by the phrase "Bound and weary" in the next line.

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Symbolism is when an author, or artist, uses a word, phrase, or other image to represent something deeper than the word or image itself.

In the poem "Infant Sorrow", Blake uses symbolism to depict the dangers a new born child must face. The symbolism of both mother wailing and father crying show the fear both possess in regards to the challenges they are to face in raising a child.

The image of the narrator struggling against his father and the swaddling clothes show the conflict and struggle one will face later in life.

After the initial struggle against his father, the speaker realizes the best thing is to give up and allow his mother to nourish him.

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