The Lilly
The Modest Rose puts forth a thorn:
The humble Sheep, a threatening horn:
While the Lilly white, shall in Love delight
Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.

“The Lilly” in Songs of Experience, a poem so short yet it encapsulates one of the biggest themes within Blake’s collection of songs. As all are brought into this world innocent, all will as well be corrupt through time and experience. Blake’s metaphoric use of nature to explain this concept is admirable because by explaining it this way, it creates colorful mental images and also results in the poetic forms that we have come to know. They are fun, catchy, melodic, and most importantly, grasps the attention of children. We are placed in the position of a child when we as adults read these poems; except, we are no longer innocent, further complicating how these poems should be read or understood.

Our minds shift from an objective mode of thinking to a subjective one through age and experience. For example, a poem in Songs of Innocence is titled “The Blossom” does not specify exactly what flower has blossomed. All we see is a flower and the type of flower it is does not matter when we are young and innocent. In Songs of Experience, Blake writes of several different types of flowers; a rose, a sun flower, and a lilly, each one given a different personification. They are all still just flowers, but are interpreted differently. A rosebud blooms and develops thorns as a way of saying the world is a dangerous place and it must protect itself. The same goes with the lamb who grows a pair of horns. Simply, these are metaphors for how our thoughts are shaped by the world. We become corrupt and lose our innocence when we grow our thorns and our horns because of the way we think. The lilly is a prime example of purity and in a sense can be compared to a holy figure. It is impossible to be like the lilly. It is as though Blake does not create a contrary about nature between Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience but rather it is more of a continuation in explaining that we are part of nature and we will experience the same experiences of all other living things.

-Van Vang