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Songs of Innocence and of Experience

by William Blake

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To what extent do you agree that the natural environment is perceived as harmful rather than harmless and reassuring in Blakes Songs of Innocence and of Experience?

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In Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Blake presents a complex portrait of nature that is simultaneously beautiful and laden with adversity.

Songs of Innocence uses nature particularly to reflect the innocence of childhood. In "The Lamb," nature is seen as "tender" and "bright." The lamb elicits feelings of joy and is associated with the love of Christ. In "The Blossom," nature is associated with merriness and beauty. The woods in "Laughing Song" are filled with laughter, with some form of the word laugh appearing in each of the first six lines. Children fill the woods with song as the natural environment invites further merriment.

In "Nurse's Song," nature echoes the joy of children as they relish the final minutes of daylight; the hills are filled with the laughter and shouts of children who beg for just a bit more time "on the green." In these poems, children are central to the innocent beauty of nature; nature is therefore presented as peaceful, cheerful, and welcoming.

Songs of Experience presents nature in an altogether different tone. In "Holy Thursday," poverty robs the natural world of joy; consequently, the "sun does never shine" and the "fields are bleak and bare." A young boy continues to smile in the midst of a "winter's snow" in "The Chimney Sweeper," though his parents have subjected him to great danger, which fills him with woe.

Nature is presented as a destructive and degenerative force in "The Sick Rose." In "The Tyger," the narrator recognizes the fearsome possibilities in nature; nature can be both a form of "art" and "deadly." The narrator of "A Poison Tree" uses nature to kill his foe, and he feels no remorse to awaken one morning to see his "foe outstretched beneath the tree." The tone of these poems often reflects a despondent and discouraged narrator. When children appear in these poems, they are often the victims of an adult world that fails to protect them.

Nature is therefore both beautiful and menacing, because humans interact with their environment in both pure and destructive ways. Nature is depicted with complexity to reflect the complicated essence of the human experience.

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