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Understanding the "Introduction" in "Songs of Innocence and of Experience"
Blake’s use of trochaic tetrameter in his “Introduction” to Songs of Innocence produces a sing-song rhythm akin to children’s songs lending the poem a tone of childlike innocence. The Piper, Blake’s speaker, starts the poem “Piping down the valleys wild” (1), a pastoral scene revealing the speaker as a single unified with the natural world. The “valleys wild” and “songs of pleasant glee” (1-two), are lawless and unbounded by social systems and structures, putting the piper within the state of innocence described by S. Foster Damon as “free, as it wants no laws. It is pleased, because it is unsophisticated. It enjoys the most spontaneous communion with nature, readily perceiving the divine in all things” (31). From this standpoint of pastoral innocence the Piper receives inspiration. A laughing youngster on a cloud, an otherworldly symbol of innocent joy, asks the speaker to “Pipe a song about a Lamb” (five). The lamb represents innocence, but also the ‘Lamb of God,’ Jesus Christ. Blake’s speaker pipes “with merry chear” (6), and plays the song after once more for the kid who reacts to the speaker’s efforts with tears of joy (8). The tears elicited from the ethereal child at the Piper’s second recitation represent a reaction of untainted innocence to the song of Christ’s mercy. Implicit in the Piper’s song about the Lamb—the redemption of mankind through Christ—is the notion of original sin and the loss of innocence. The child’s joyful tears, in as soon as sense, oppose the weeping in “Introduction” in Songs of Knowledge, but also forecast the mourning for innocence lost and expertise gained.
Serving as muse, the youngster on the cloud urges the speaker to “write / In a book that all may read” (13-14), the happy songs song on behalf of and from the standpoint of unsullied innocence. The “hollow reed” and “rural pen” (16-17), referenced by the Piper serve as pastoral symbols for the Blake’s engraving tool—the burin—used in crafting the plates from which Songs of Innocence and of Experience were initial printed. Watercolors have been utilized by Blake to paint his prints, hence the Piper “stain’d the water clear,” although transcribing his “happy songs / Every single kid may joy to hear” (18-20). The innocence presented by Blake in his vision of the youngster in unspoiled nature translates through the artist’s tools and onto the web page, creating a group of poems that are written from the point of view of an innocent soul.
“Introduction” in Songs of Knowledge establishes a significantly various tone. While “Introduction” to Songs of Innocence shows the Piper obtaining inspiration for his poems from an angelic child’s meek requests for a song, the “Introduction” in Songs of Knowledge begins with the speaker demanding, “Hear the voice of the Bard! / Who Present, Past & Future sees” (1-2). Unlike the state of innocence in which present joys remains a singular concern, the Bard sees past events, present reactions and achievable futures. The Bard’s voice differs from the descriptive tones of the Piper and requires on an imperative good quality signifying the need to uncover meaning and create alter inside the chaos of knowledge. Alternatively of composing a song about a lamb, the Bard has in fact “heard / The Holy Word / That walk’d amongst the ancient trees” (3-5), a direct reference to God in search of Adam and Eve right after they have committed the original sin. Northrop Frye indicates that “the ‘Bard’ hence finds himself in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, who derive their inspiration from Christ as Word of God” (60). Inspired by the word of God and “weeping in the evening dew” (11), the Bard’s lamenting more than mankind’s fall contrasts with the child’s innocent cries of joy at the song about Christ. “Calling the lapsed Soul” (10), the Bard hopes to inspire all human souls to overcome their fallen state and wield the power of imagination allowing man to “controll / The starry pole, / And fallen, fallen light renew” (12-14). Exactly where Blake celebrates his vision of innocence in Songs of Innocence’s “Introduction,” the Bard of encounter mourns mankind’s initial move away from innocence into the abyss of fragmentation that separates humanity from God and man from man.
Inspired by the voice of God, the Bard calls to earth:
Arise from out the dewy grass
Evening is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumberous mass. (12-15)
The “slumberous mass” referred to by the Bard constitutes both earth and mankind wrapped in the endless chaos of fragmentation and separation from God. The “Night” has lasted since the Old Testament God cursed mankind and created division of earth from God and will persist until the Bard’s orders for the souls of mankind rise from their material prisons with the dawning of a new post-apocalyptic millennial era—the “morn” (13-14). Frye concludes that the “‘fallen light,’ [. . .] is the alternating light and darkness of the world we know the unfallen light would be the eternal light of the City of God” hence, “the prophet sees in each dawn the image of a resurrection that will lift the world into another state of getting altogether” (63). The Bard begs each the earth and man to rise from their fallen fragmented forms and achieve, through the awakening of imagination, a larger state of tested innocence. The “lapsed soul” (six), that remains ensconced in the state of experience binds itself inside the earthly material realm circumscribed by “the starry floor” and “watry shore” (18-19). These boundaries inhibit man’s capacity to transcend the material realm of encounter and reunite the fragmented segments of human encounter with “the break of day” (20), ending the cycle of light and dark and beginning the new millennial era in which God and all guys are when once more joined with each other via enjoy and understanding.
Songs of Innocence and of Encounter presents poems in the type of illuminated plates, adding an artistic depth to the texts themselves by means of contributions produced by the decorations to the theme of the poems. “Introduction” in Songs of Innocence functions text decorated on either side by images “derived from a mediaeval manuscript illustrating the Tree of Jesse” (Keynes 132-three), displaying the genealogical descent of Christ from David, the son of Jesse. Blake’s song in the initial version of “Introduction” issues Jesus, producing the lineage of Christ a fitting backdrop for the poem. Songs of Encounter presents the text of its “Introduction” above a reposing figure, most likely female, symbolizing each earth and the soul. Earth lies with her back to the reader and appears toward the correct side of the text with an aura surrounding her head. The figure of earth operates as an inverse to Jesse who faces the audience and looks from right to left in The Tree of Jesse (Unknown). In the engraving as in the poem, earth appears as an opposite to the image of Jesse who represents the biological path to Christ and the salvation of mankind. Imagination, mankind’s only hope of redemption from material bonds, remains present in the glow emanating from earth’s head (Blake 24, 76).
Blake’s two versions of “Introduction” written from the perspectives of innocence and expertise function on significantly the exact same level as Milton’s companion poems L’Allegro and Il Penseroso. Mirth and melancholy both present themselves all through the expertise of human life as expertise inevitably grows from innocence. Blake’s two poems function tones that reflect the condition of the speaker’s soul, innocence exhibiting laughter and tears of joy and knowledge demanding interest to its complaints. Thematically the poems diverge in focus: the very first “Introduction” celebrates the organic ability to picture and reside unbounded in the pastoral simplicity of innocence versus the second “Introduction” that gives reproach for the material world of knowledge. Whilst the planet of innocence relies on adore and joy in the present those in the experienced realm need to endure the chaos and separation from the human type divine—God. Though interpretation of Blake’s poetry remains a challenge, the portraits of innocence and knowledge given to readers of Blake’s two versions of “Introduction” show divergent traits of two conditions of the soul, opening the path for Blake to completely discover the dichotomy all through Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
Blake, William. “Introduction.” Songs of Innocence. 1789. Introd. and Comment. Sir Geoffrey Keynes. New York: Oxford UP, 1967. 23-4.
—. “Introduction.” Songs of Experience. 1794. Introd. and Comment. Sir Geoffrey Keynes. New York: Oxford UP, 1967. 75-six.
Damon, S. Foster. “The Initial Eden.” Twentieth Century Interpretations of Songs of
Innocence and of Experience. Ed. Morton D. Paley. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1969. 30-five.
Frye, Northrop. “Blake’s Introduction to Expertise.” Twentieth Century Interpretations of Songs of Innocence and of Encounter. Ed. Morton D. Paley. New Jersey: Prentice- Hall, Inc., 1969. 58-67.
Unknown. The Tree of Jesse. 1240-1250. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles=2E 1 March 2005 <http://www.getty.edu/art/collections/objects/o3506.html>.
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