Except for the first four lines, “Auguries of Innocence” (written in 1803 but unpublished until 1863) consists of a long series of couplets, each of which contains a proverb. Although William Blake may have intended to reorganize the couplets, the poem as he left it in manuscript has no clear order. For this reason, some editors of the poem have rearranged “Auguries of Innocence” by grouping the couplets according to theme.
“Auguries” means omens or divinations, and “Innocence,” according to the subtitle of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794), is one of the two contrary states of the human soul. In Blake’s poetry, innocence is related to existence in Paradise (what Blake calls Beulah) and is associated with the joy and spontaneity of childhood. Thus the title of “Auguries of Innocence” suggests that the poem will present omens from an innocent perspective, in which “the Infants Faith,” not the cynic’s mockery, is valid.
“Auguries of Innocence” begins with four alternately rhymed lines questioning the absolute nature of space and time. According to these opening lines, one can “see a World in a Grain of Sand,” and Eternity can be contained “in an hour.” This quatrain asserts that something infinitesimal can expand into immensity, an idea that prepares the reader for the rest of the poem, in which small proverbs are used to comment on such immensities as heaven, hell, and...
(The entire section is 463 words.)