Tag Archive: childhood


Have you ever caught yourself rewatching a film you watched as a child, or listen to a song you heard growing up, and finally understood the dark, or “scandalous” humor/lyrics used that you never understood as a child? I know it happens to me a lot, especially within my four years here in college. The reason for this is because growing up, we are naive and unaware of the “bad” in the world; our minds are ultimately innocent. It is through experience, and growing up that we come to the realization that the world isn’t just black and white.

Relating to this idea of “coming of age”, I particularly looked at Blake’s “The Echoing Green” from The Songs of Innocence, and “The Angel” from The Songs of Experience. I found these two poems to be contrary with similar ideas of this concept of “coming of age” in question. The contrary between these two poems is that The Echoing Green describes childhood as this lively and joyful time, filled with bells of “chearful sound” (Blake, 14). Readers here envision childhood as the “ultimate paradise” one can be in. The Angel on the other hand, relates this state of childhood with constant shed of tears “both night and day” (Blake, 38). Childhood here is seen as this dark, and crippling state, with the Angel having to constantly comfort the maiden Queen. Both poems however, end with the idea that childhood eventually comes to an end, when we grow up, experience, and become fully aware of the kind of world we live in. The Echoing Green ends with “And our sports have an end…sport no more seen, On the darkening Green” (Blake, 14). The last two lines of The Angel read “For the time of youth was fled…And grey hairs were on my head” (Blake, 38).

Identifying the similarities and difference between the poems we can begin to see Blake’s “poetic” genius forcing us to ponder on how poems in both Songs work together to provide the “big picture”.

-Kimberly Martinez-Melchor

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Joy is born

without knowing the sorrows of the world

his soul is pure and untainted

worry free and care free, he smiles

Joy is born

His mother rocks his cradle

back and forth

forth and back

she hums a sweet melody

all the while weeping in fear

fear of the time that is to one day come

the day Joy’s soul becomes tainted

In the meantime Joy grows

he laughs

he plays

living life freely, no worries

but the mud on his pants

One day Joy is confused

scared, alone, and in need

he calls for help

he is lost

but one day Joy is found

after his mother teaches prayers

Joy now calls to God

when he is confused

scared

alone

and in need of help

Joy smiles

with the wrinkles on his face

he runs his hands through the grey hairs on his head

he thinks “wow, what a time when nothing mattered,

but the mud on my pants”

oh how beautiful that thing they call childhood.

 

After reading Blake’s Songs of Innocence and going through the archive’s to select pictures for my post, I was inspired to really focus on the concept of childhood. Childhood is truly one of the best stages in life that I feel we really whiz by and never really take the moment to truly appreciate that time we have when our minds are free of corruption. There’s so much hate, injustice, and sorrow in the world that after we come to the realization of these things, we truly appreciate our childhood. Blake beautifully captures this idea of childhood, but more interestingly incorporates religion heavily throughout the poems. Almost as if God is a crucial part of this “coming of age”.

-Kimberly Martinez-Melchor

 

Innocence Reclaimed

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A little boy freely sings.  He spends his days running and playing, until his mother calls him back.  He sits at her feet as she tells him of his calling, responsibility and obligation.  Each day he returns to her for these lessons, listening more but thinking less.  As he grows older it becomes harder to remain imaginative.  He begins working as a shepherd, falling into the pattern of monotony of spending each day with the sheep.  One day he seems to hear a voice calling, “Shepherd, Piper, play for me.”  He glances around and sees no one.  After hearing the voice again, he looks up to see the figure of a child beckoning him, calling him to perform.  It’s been too many years, he thinks.  I have nothing to sing, he reasons.  But still the voice continues and finally he begins.  As he sings the child dances above him, spurring him on in mutual enjoyment.  Soon the child fades away, but the piper and shepherd’s song continues.  If only for his sheep, he will carry on playing.

In the opening image of the woman and child beneath the tree, Blake visualizes education as the children listen to their mother.  However, the dark tree branches appear to choke out the celestial Songs of Innocence, gradually building a barrier between the children and this imaginative space.  In this way indoctrination and education choke out imagination, transforming each child from an individual to one of a number thinking and acting the same way.  As the child begins to work, he falls into a slow monotony that again dulls his freethinking.  The return of the child is the return of innocence and imagination.  Despite the physical monotony of his work as a shepherd, his mind can still think and create.  In this way Blake communicates that innocence can be reclaimed; the creative genius is not dead but merely dormant.

 

 

 

 

 

This version of Songs of Innocence tells a story about religious education and its effect on children. In “Nurse’s Song,” the nurse watches a group of children play outside. The sounds of their games and general happiness mesh with nature, and she feels an overwhelming sense of peace at the scene. The children seem to be young—they are described as “little ones” and are still being cared for by a nurse (Blake 25). They probably have not begun learning about Christianity from their mother, so they play peacefully outside together, seemingly one with nature. The image depicted on this particular page reminds me of a statue found on Vanderbilt’s campus called “Come Play,” which depicts a group of children motioning for another child to come join in their game. This inclusiveness suggests nativity and innocence, both in Blake’s work and in the statue found here in modern day (Haven).

Blake 2 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The second song, “The Lamb,” again sounds peaceful, but there are major discrepancies between the tone and the content of the song. The young child begins by innocently asking a lamb, “Little Lamb who made thee?” He then goes on to answer his own question, stating that “He is called by thy name, / For he calls himself a Lamb” (Blake 15). This appears to be a direct link to Jesus and Christianity. However, the little child cannot decide whether the lamb he is directing his question to is a lamb or a Lamb, indicating some confusion about the religious symbol of the lamb. It seems as if the child does not understand whether Jesus was a literal lamb, a figurative lamb, or the very lamb in front of him. This reflects the general ambiguous nature of religion in the purest way possible—the little boy is confused, but are people ever not confused about religion?

Blake 1

The third song, “The Little Black Boy,” transitions from Christian ambiguity and confusion to twisting Christianity to explain or justify racism. The little black boy is told by his mother that his blackness “is but a cloud” that will disappear when he goes to Heaven. A picture of equality in Heaven is created—both “clouds” of black and white will disappear, and the little black boy “will be like [the English boy]” and will be loved by the English boy as an equal. He also claims that he will “shade [the English boy] from the heat [of God] till he can bear” (Blake16). This implies that being black is an extra hardship that will prepare the little black boy for Heaven better than the little English boy—as if God intended for blacks to face more trials than whites. This explanation twists Christianity until it justifies racism as a construct intended by God.  Although this song seems comforting on the surface—after all, the little black boy accepts himself and believes one day he will be equal with the English boy—he has still ultimately accepted racism as a Christian construct.

Blake 3

Throughout these three songs, we see Christianity and religious education slowly confusing and even corrupting the children in question. In the first song, the children are innocent and young—they know nothing of religion, only of playing outside. In the second song, the little child is beginning to learn about his religion, but his understanding is muddled and confused—something that is unlikely to change as he gets older. In the third song, the little black boy utilizes Christian teachings to accept himself, but at the same time he accepts racism as a part of Christianity. These songs, when read in this order, tell the story of the corruption of Christian teachings—while each child means well in his understanding and application of religion, ultimately the happiest children are the ones with no knowledge of Christianity.

Works Cited

Haven, Katharine. Come Play. 1985. University General Sculpture Collection, Vanderbilt University, Nashville. University General Sculpture Collection. Web. 3 September 2013. <http://cpc-fis.vanderbilt.edu/view.php?label=3&gt;