Songs of Innocence

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A collection of poems written and etched by W. Blake, published 1789. Most of the poems are about childhood, some of them written, with apparent simplicity, as if by children (e.g. ‘Little lamb, who made thee?’ and ‘The Chimney Sweeper’); others commenting on the state of infancy (‘The Ecchoing Green’); and yet others introducing the prophetic tone and personal imagery of Blake's later work (‘The Little Girl Lost’, ‘The Little Girl Found’).

In 1795 Blake issued a further volume, entitled Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul, to which he added the ‘Songs of Experience’, some of them (e.g. ‘The Chimney Sweeper’ and ‘Nurse's Song’) bearing identical titles to poems in the first collection, but replying to them in a tone that questions and offsets their simplicities, and manifests with great poetic economy Blake's profoundly original vision of the interdependence of good and evil, of energy and restraint, of desire and frustration. They range from fairly straightforward, if highly provocative, attacks on unnatural restraint (‘The Garden of Love’, ‘London’) to the extraordinary lyric intensity of ‘Infant Sorrow’, ‘Ah! Sun‐Flower’, and ‘Tyger! Tyger!’

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

William Blake (1757—1827) engraver, artist, and poet

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