Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In his prophetic works, Blake describes four types of vision: fourfold vision, the highest visionary state; threefold vision, identified with Beulah (Paradise) and innocence; twofold vision, which is the realm of experience; and the single vision of Newtonian physics and abstract reasoning. “Auguries of Innocence” deals primarily with threefold vision, the mental state closest to the true enlightenment of fourfold vision, and one should not, therefore, expect the poem to reflect either the realism of experience or the formal consistency of abstract logic. For example, the couplet that asserts that “Each outcry of the hunted Hare/ A fibre from the Brain does tear” does not seem accurate in terms of experience or logic, but, from a more visionary perspective, such a statement can have much validity. It describes the consequences of the physical act of rabbit hunting on the visionary ability of the hunter, who through his cruelty falls from innocence to the less imaginative state of experience. Many of the poem’s couplets are, in fact, warnings about loss of vision as a result of acts of cruelty, and the poem as a whole attests the fragility of innocence. Since innocence is prized in the poem as the gateway to fourfold vision, the doubter who would mock an infant’s faith is seen as particularly criminal: “He who shall teach the Child to Doubt/ The rotting Grave shall neer get out.” The doubter’s total lack of imagination will ultimately trap him in the...

(The entire section is 505 words.)