Blake spends a lot of energy in his “Songs of Experience” trying to articulate exactly what experience is. So it is somewhat ironic to think that the poem where experience is most clearly defined comes in the “Songs of Innocence.” As a matter of fact “Infant Joy,” Blake’s poem about the state of a freshly born child, builds a clear definition of experience. In the poem we hear the voice of a child who is “but two days old.” The poem is extensively concerned with the child’s name. At first the child has no name, but then later in the poem the child states “Joy is my name.” By the end of the poem we know only three things about the child: it is two days old, it is named Joy, and it is happy. (Recall the significance of naming which we discussed in class. Once the child has a name it is initiated into the system of the Church.)
These elements are important because they define the infant at this specific point in time. Considering this a reader is forced to wonder what the difference is between an infant and any other human being. The only difference that we can consistently point to, is experience. In five years the only thing that will change about the child is that it will have five more years of experience. Knowing this, it seems logical to think that the things the author uses to define the infant are elements that can only define those who have no experience. As the infant gains more experience, it will in turn lose these qualities that defined it’s infancy. Infancy is the opposite of experience. Knowing this we can use the poem as a kind of negative definition of experience. What is experience? It is the opposite of happiness, it is the opposite of youth, and it is the opposite of not having a name.