Please answer these questions on The Clod and the Pebble by William Blake.
1. Explore the literal, physical contrast between a clod and a pebble.
2. Why are the clod & the pebble suitable characters to carry out this debate?
3. Please paraphrase the lines "And builds a heaven in hell's despair" and "And builds a hell in heaven's despite."
4. What do heaven & hell have to do with this debate? Are they to be taken literally?
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Heaven and hell aren't to be taken completely literally, but they are very important words. The clod stands for self-sacrifice and innocence -- sort of a parody of Christian values (heaven). The pebble stands for the opposite -- complete selfishness and cynicism.
This is why Blake uses a hard, strong, pebble for the one character and a soft, crumbly clod for the other (also, "clod" can mean a stupid person).
To "build a heaven in hell's despair" is to be innocent and naively optimistic in a world where there is evil and difficulties. The other quote is saying that the pebble will build a hard, unloving world -- no matter what the "good" people think is right.
The Clod and the Pebble can be found in William Blake's most renowned work, Songs of Innocence and Experience. The Clod and Pebble was completed in 1794 and reflects the main themes of the work as a whole. The clod represents the voice of innocence and naivete and is contrasted with the pebble which considers only the "self" and the voice of experience.
1. In terms of its definition, and in this context, a clod is a lump of soil or clay. What is noticeable is that a clod comes from a bigger section of earth where it was once part of the whole and not distinct. On the other hand, a pebble originates from stone and is a piece that has broken off and has worn down over time to form a stone with a smooth surface.
2. Of the two, a pebble would be more aesthetically pleasing and interesting with unique features whereas a clod would be unlikely to attract any attention. Based on the clod's understanding of love as completely selfless (and lacking in vanity of any sort) and which is revealed through dedication to another, and the (far prettier) pebble's version of love as intended to please "only self," they are appropriate choices as "characters" in Blake's poem.
3. To paraphrase "And builds a Heaven in Hell's despair," a writer could say something about the power of positive thinking and the ability to create a perfect place or paradise where otherwise there would be no hope and no future, only sorrow and distress.
To paraphrase "And builds a Hell in Heaven's despite," a writer might say that when a person thinks that love is the selfish kind this will result in a lack of respect and an anguish that cannot be mitigated even in an idyllic place or situation.
4. Heaven and hell are popular choices for poetry because of their very definite associations with good and evil. The words do not require explanation and they are readily understood. Therefore, they should not be taken literally. In this poem, they are used to create visual images of "heaven" as an ideal and "hell" as an all-encompassing feeling of suffering.
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