Tag Archive: Contrary Nature in Songs of Innocence

The Contrary States

For next Wednesday (2/7), students will analyze a poem from The Songs of Experience that has a “contrary” or negative twin poem in The Songs of Innocence.  How do these contrary poems/designs mutually inform, interrupt, or revise each other in a manner that is not apparent when these poems are read in isolation?

Alternatively, students can analyze a poem in The Songs of Experience that lacks a “contrary” in The Songs of Innocence.  Why are these non-contrarian poems significant in the context of the larger collection of songs?  How do these poems call into question Blake’s interpretive approach to opposition, negation, and dissonance?

Please focus on a pair of poems or one poem.  Categorize this post under “Experience, Earth, and Adulthood” and don’t forget to create specific and relevant tags.  All posts are due by 8:30am next Wednesday, 2/7.


          Songs of Innocence express Blake’s belief in the contrary nature of the human soul; joyous freedom and restriction.  For Blake, childhood is a state of innocence, a state of freedom that is lost as we age into adulthood and the faculties of reason.  Because of this, the Songs of Innocence poems are childlike filled with nursery rhymes, observation, and little meaning.

Sound the flute!

Now it’s mute.

Birds delight

Day and Night.


In the dale

Lark in Sky


          These lines taken from “Spring” represent freedom because they illustrate a state absent of reason.  As mentioned during class, Blake believed adults were always confounded to a state of experience.  Innocence is not a faculty adults express.

For Blake, a child is introduced to experience through defining realizations and labor.  In the picture of “The Shepherd Below” (below)  the boy is “watchful while they are in peace.”  The boy’s head is looking downward in a state of contemplation.  It is his responsibility, or lack of freed action, that makes him begin to question life and his role as a living person and reason, being developed through labor, is his continuing restriction to freedom.  In this way, Songs of Innocence is also protesting the industrial revolution because of its effect on the human mind.  The darker colors expressed in “The Shepherd” indicate the darkness of experience, or the way it influences the soul through taking away innocence, joy, and a divine presence.

“The Shepherd”  contrasts “The Echhoing Green”  because in “The Echhoing Green,”  the children are dancing freely and joyous while the adults are left under the tree of experience because of their dedication to reason and responsibility.  Innocence is synonymous with joy, the divine nature of the lamb (Jesus Christ), the divine heat in “The Little Black Boy,” and also natural landscape.  The innocent is appreciative of nature and engrained in the freedoms and joy of natural landscape while experience, in Songs of Innocence, is more associated with labor (The Shepherd), questioning (The Lamb), or sadness (The Little Black Boy, whose logical faculties are developed because he is an outcast of society).


Now, although Blake believes innocence is a state only had in childhood, he points throughout Songs of Innocence ways  one can access aspects of innocence or in other words, the poetic genius.  Through the appreciation of natural landscape, one is able to further engrain oneself in the joy received from it.  Contacting divine nature like hearing “the lambs innocent call” and being watchful of this peace or “To Mercy Pity Peace and Love, all pray” will bring the soul further toward innocence, a state resembling the poetic genius.  Blake is calling for both adults and children to harness those ideals which make a child innocent.

In this way, this book is not only for educating children but also adults.  This books is to teach about the human condition, or contrary nature of the soul, and in turn, foster its “better” aspects.  Although Blake believes experience is the status quo of all adults, in Songs of Innocence, he is advocating self-betterment and a way to lessen the detriments of experience.  For Blake, this process can lead to many realizations.  A switch of soul may bring differing feelings about the monarchy, the industrial revolution, the royal academy, and the origins of art (the divine imagination), all those issues which Blake has strong opinions on.  Although seemingly simple in structure, design, and poetical strategy, Songs of Innocence is actually promoting radical beliefs and attempting to alter how a child grows into experience.