Tag Archive: innocence


Everybody has choices.

William Blake mentions a diverse set of topics throughout his writing. Much of his writing we’ve read thus far consists of innocence, womanhood, and the distinction between “good” and “evil.” This religious theme and connotations of good and evil can be explicitly seen in Blake’s “A Memorable Fancy.” For instance, the speaker goes on to say, “An Angel came to me and said: ‘O pitiable, foolish young man! O horrible! O dreadful state! Consider the hot, burning dungeon thou art preparing for thyself to all Eternity, to which thou art going in such career’” (Blake, 132). In this dialogue, the reader is presented with the image of an Angel. This angelical figure – which often represents salvation and the preservation of innocence – goes on to tell the individual that his actions, behavior, and choices he / she has made in life are leading him / her not to heaven, but to a “hot burning dungeon.” In other words, the decisions people make throughout their lifetime will have consequences in their after-life. The Angel serves as a form of interventionist, where it makes sure the decisions people make in life are the right or “good” ones.

This idea can tie back into Thomas Pain and Moravian view where both entail this idea of believing in a God in their own way. For instance, Pain’s only figure of judgement was his own mind. If his actions were condemned, then he himself would be the one setting up consequences for those actions. Unlike Christianity, Pain’s only church was his mind (“The Age of Reason”). In “Age of Reason” he goes on to say, “When man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime” (Pain). In other words, human beings are bound to make “bad” choices; they’re bound to make mistakes due to the elements that surround them on a daily basis. However, the only people who are allowed to enforce any type of punishment on them are the individuals themselves. Once an individual has made one “bad” decision, then there’s nothing even “worse” that person can do.

Advertisements

Children are wanted to be thought of as innocent bearers of light that are the hope for a better existence. Yet there is always that fear that they will grow up and become exposed to the truths that taint them and destroy that child-like wonder that they have. It is through the The Nurse’s Song, in both Innocence and Experience, that show this promise of a protected being full of life and vibrancy but that could easily be affected by the harsh realities that the world has to offer. In Innocence, Blake states:

When the voices of children are heard on the green

And laughing is heard on the hill,

My Heart is at rest within my breast

And every thing else is still

The poem gives the idea that the “voices of the children” are this harmonizing song of promise of joy. It is this song of innocence that is being “heard on the hill” and reassures them that the harsh realities will not affect the children. The want to preserve their childhood and have them “rest” and keep them “still” however in truth there is no way of avoiding the truths of reality. The poem undergoes an evolution when Walker decides to give the children a nostalgic view through the Experience collection. Blake starts off the poem:

When the voices of children are heard on the green

And whisperings are in the dale:

The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,

My face turns green and pale

He decides to start the poem just as the other one to invoke a sense of connectivity with the past and that the past itself is what shapes one. It is a callback to better times when that childlike wonder existed but also helps to paint a new status quo of age. There is nostalgia in the way that the narrator speaks about “The days of my youth” being ‘fresh in my mind” and it is something that the narrator lacks. It is this that transforms them into “green and pale” a sickness that spreads through them taking away the innocence and replacing it with experience. These contraries serve not to go against one another but rather remind the former of where they came from. Some see the innocence being lost as a negative but what Blake is trying to reassure others is that they will retain some semblance of it in their memory. It is this memory that further helps to develop them into a being of thought and wisdom.

-Alexis Blanco

The innocence that is found in “A Dream” is bounded by the warm opportunistic tone offered in the last two stanzas, especially the last the line:

Pitying, I dropped a tear:
But I saw a glow-worm near,
Who replied, ‘What wailing wight
Calls the watchman of the night?

‘I am set to light the ground,
While the beetle goes his round:
Follow now the beetle’s hum;
Little wanderer, hie thee home! ‘

It appears as if the Emmet is given the chance to unite with their family once again, offered by the open-ended style of the resolution. Here, the reader is immediately pulled into the world of the ant and their family; an image of their reuniting is fantasized as move on from the story. It has no real ending other than the glow-worm offering its aid to the ant. Had this been written for Experience, then I’m sure Blake would have suggested a different ending; if it were anything like the ending found in “The Angel”, we would find the Emmet was too late. Though this was only the dream of innocence, and only a dream of experience ends this way…

I hate to pose the same question as the speaker in Blake’s poem, but what can it mean, this dream? If the idea of experience is to bridge the outcomes of reality and build expectations from said experience, what can this dream–of a fictional place–mean in relation to experience? Surely even the concept of dreaming and the fountain of imagination of which it is created, must be considered innocent, for they are unreal–a non-tangible experience. But where do we begin deeming the ideas of the subconscious as manifestations of experience?

–Daniel Lizaola Lopez

Life

In William Blake’s “Infant Joy,” he immediately presents the reader with a new born child who asserts nothing but happiness:

“‘I happy am, / Joy is my name.’” (lines 4 – 5).

While the child may not have a name, he/she lets the world know of their own internal state of blissfulness. Before being exposed to knowledge, children are happy. Before and after birth, nothing’s tainted their minds, their viewpoints, or their imaginations. Life is easy for children. Life if “joy” for children.

Unlike “Infant Joy,” “Infant Sorrow” sheds light on the child’s vulnerabilities and its worries: “Into the dangerous world I leapt, / Helpless, naked, piping loud, / Like a fiend hid in a cloud” (lines 2 – 4).  The child is no longer inside the womb where its protected from all harm and evil, its naked body is now exposed to society; it’s ears now have the ability to hear the “piping” around him / her; feeling like an “evil” spirit hiding behind a cloud. Unlike a child whose mind hasn’t been influenced by the rest of society, this child worries about the “fiend” that may be brought upon him / her when they leap into the world. Rather than enjoying its purity, the child agonizes about the effects life will have on him/her once he/she finally acquires knowledge and judgement.

By reading these two poems side by side, it gets the reader thinking about the themes Blake often used in his writing (life, death, happiness etc…). Essentially, these themes become applicable to the world we live in. When we were children, we had nothing to work about; no bills to pay, no books to buy; we lived in a stress-free environment when we were children. Both of these poems serve as a message to remind people to always remain bliss; not for others but for oneself. One minute were two days old, the next, we’re submitting grad school applications. They serve as a message to enjoy life and take advantage of each and every moment; never stress about the small things; engulf in the happiness you get from life.

In William Blake’s Songs of Innocence, “Holy Thursday”, partaking in the religious is a communal affair, one that the youth is a part of; the children are in a way facilitating the religious. The last stanza is indicative of this:

“Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song

Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among

The youth is shown here to be the fore bringers of the religious: without them, there is no “mighty wind”, and furthermore, without the youth there is no religion to pass on. The lines following these show the contrast between the youth and the elders more:

Beneath them sit the aged men wise guardians of the poor

Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door

This lines appear to show that while the youth are the future of the church in their innocence, the elders champion them. This is buttressed by the fact the elders, sit “beneath them” (11), and must act as “guardians of the poor” (11), which may or may not be some of the youth. The final message of the poem is to “cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door” (12), alluding to the fact that the youth could in fact grow up to be the future of the church, and to shut your doors to them is to be denying them of that future.

The “contrasting” piece, therefore, (of the same name, “Holy Thursday”) works to further instill and drive this meaning home. “Holy Thursday” in Songs of Innocence and Experience, takes a less hopeful approach. Instead of arguing in an optimistic light, the speaker of the poem is much more pessimistic and dark: “Babes reducd to misery / Fed with cold and usurious hand?” (2-3). Blake uses the imagery of children suffering to show in a much more realistic light what was actually going on in England. While the previous poem focused on the potential power of the child, this one shows the reality of children’s future. Without the protection of the elders, and without charity, “their sun does never shine…their ways are fill’d with thorns / It is eternal winter there” (9-12). This offers an important commentary on Blake’s philosophy of thought: if we are cruel and uncharitable to children, we stifle their potential and prevent them coming to Christianity. Christianity is the place where a “babe can never hunger there, / Nor poverty the mind appall” (15-16).

 

-Sara Nuila-Chae

Hitchcock Blake

SCENE 1

Sweet dreams form a shade, O’er my lovely infants head, […] Sweet smiles in the night, Hover over my delight. Sweet miles Mothers smiles All the livelong night beguiles.

SCENE 2

When the voices of children are heard on the green And laughing is heard on the hill, My heart is at rest within my breast And every thing else is still Then come home my children, the sun is gone down And the dews of night arise Come come leave off play, and let us away Till the morning appears in the skies No no let us play, for it is yet day And we cannot go to sleep Besides in the sky, the little birds fly And the hills are all covered with sheep

To the bells chearful sound. While our sports shall be seen […] Till the little ones weary No more can be merry The sun does descend, And our sports have an end: Round the laps of their mothers.

SCENE 3

And I am black, but O! my soul is white. […] Thus did my mother say and kissed me. […] My mother taught me underneath a tree […] And pointing to the east began to say.

CUT TO BLACK

Using the above sampled lines from the various pieces of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, I have imagined a murder-mystery movie plot loosely-based on director Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho/The Birds film plots for their containing analogous scenes of the three images borrowed from Blake’s text interpolated into narratorial voiceovers. The first tile resembles how ‘Innocence’ states a critical, prison rhetoric and legal discourse which reflects criminal justice systems that profit off hyper-incarceration trends, while evoking a theme present in modern literature from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment to Blake’s Songs on resisting autocracy historically by challenging ‘attainment of innocence.’ Norman Bates as the killer in Psycho is guilty without ever being guilty, as indicated by his hiddenness in the famous, silhouette-shower stabbing scene and thus embodies the paradox which Blake confronts throughout his Songs of Innocence and of Experience and in the concept of ‘innocence.’ Norman Bates revealed with mental illness reflects Blake’s dissociative editorials in Songs which appear fragmented in my narrative, presented here without the typical enjambment. The repetitive mentioning of mothers and children can employed to cliché effect aestheticizing nationalist undertones in readings, for example of ‘sport’ or other anthropomorphic and male-dominant language-valuations, for engineering palatable entertainment applications. My specific ordering of the plates replicates the traditional horror-movie arch, transforming a killer amongst the children, beginning with creepy mother-baby cradle-beguiling, and concluding with the shifting black boy image for signifying how demise, death, or execution may be contradicted by his youth, suggesting an innocence which doubles as guilt in both mental illness and criminal justice paradigms.

-Bradley Dexter Christian

s-inn.b.p1-2.100

Tender and new is the baby born to thee

His warm eyes shine through the somber night

Filling the pastoral fields with glee

Sadly, only for a second, now the plants have become full of blight!

s-inn.b.p5-25.100

Tender and new is the child born to thee

His laugh ringing like bells upon the doors of your home

The daughters and sons run around with him, free

Tragically, now you can’t find the children, where could they have roamed?

Gone are all the children except for he

Could it be that the children are all decaying loam

As he sits with wide eyes under the big tree
s-inn.b.p22-13.100

Tender and new is the child born to thee

You left him lone in the pasture fearing he is guilty for the gloom

Or, worse, that he is so pure that God spared he

He who once lived inside the warmth of a womb

Is now left in the field without thee

___________________

I chose a poem for this blogpost because I wanted to emulate Blake’s poems from the reading. Specifically, “The Lamb” inspired my poem because of it’s repetition and the emphasis of the innocence of the child. He is called a “Little Lamb” several times in the poem. I chose the first image because it indicates that the child is a literal angel. The second image was chosen because it shows the family in a flower, indicating happiness and purity, however(!) there is another flower on the bottom next to it wilting. The last image I chose was of a lost child, which is rather terrifying to even imagine, I think this is why I gravitated towards it. I think the innocence of the child in this poem remains, and it is the adults that put meaning into random events. Adults try to recognize symbols, but what if there are none, and everything is culminated from random events. Thus, abandoning a child because of superstition says more about adults than children.

-Beyanira Bautista

Weeping Mother

She sat in lonely darkness admiring her new born baby, the light of the moon

Shining down on the baby boy as he gently was rocked into a slumber of peace.

She could feel the warmth of his angelic presence hit the deepest of her heart,

A sigh braking the silence as she thought to herself the desire to protect him.

To fight off his demons, the monsters in the dark,

Make them go away and never have him face it all alone.

The burdens living in a chaotic land full of disappointment and diswonderment .

Forever by his side as a mother always should be with those birthed to them

“Don’t let me go” he will say and she will be there to say “no I wont.”

Mommas Gotta Go

His cries and tears break through her skin as she sits there reminiscing of times before

He longs for her presence, he falls, he eats, he poops and he sleeps as far as she knows

What is a mother to do with her child when he craves that protection she once promised

The shroud of everything harmful to him, is all she clings to yet does not want to

But she knew in her heart that she could not always be there to protect him

To guide him, to lecture, to soothe him in all his maladies that figured into his life

She wanted him to learn that the world was dark and gloomy and not full of light

That she would be there but not all the time like she promised

She stepped to the crib and patted his back soothing his grief filled heart one last time

Finding the Light

He trudged on through the thickest darkness he had ever seen for his mama was gone

He feared the dark for so many times but she was always there to light up his world

Now sitting here alone he figured it was only time before she came

But mama never came

She was gone from his grasp only his silence kept him company

He could call out for help but no one would hear him

He would have to go at it alone and for the first time he would have to try

 

While writing I wanted to focus on themes that Blake deemed contrary state. I wanted the readers to sympathize with a mother troubled with raising her son who did not know whether to protect him from the atrocities of the world or expose him to it. It is this duality of parenting and whether keeping the truths of the world can really be deemed protecting that drives the mother. I wanted her to understand that there is nothing wrong with allowing children to understand the world for themselves. The world is black and white with shades of gray so why not explore it.

-Alexis Blanco

A Child Sleeps

Alexander the Great squirmed in his sheets,

His mother over him beckoning him to sleep

He closed his eyes and tried to dream

Of pleasant hills and glistening streams

 

His mother thought him an Angel mild,

“Dreaming of kisses, fairies, sunshine, sweet child”

On his face innocence had dreamt

Though not of nice things, as his mother had meant

 

William Blake 1

 

He had seen the fields, the sunshine, true,

And in them townspeople, having fun as they do

The boys laughed, and play took away their cares

While the women sat under a tree and braided hair

 

Little Alex looked at all the echoing green

And thought if only in his dream his mother could see

He thought maybe he’d take this land, and the next

So his mother could see this land’s best

 

And then he’d resolved in that night’s slumber

To lead an army to great East to plunder

And bring back the gifts he’d once seen in his dream

To his mother’s eyes, to be her reality

William Blake 2

 

“How sweet he dreams!” his mother wept,

“Such innocence in this heavenly infant!”

And she waited till the morn’ when he stirred

Her eyes transfixed on God’s great gift to her

 

When dawn broke, so did Morpheus’ spell

And Alexander awoke, his cries like a bell

His mother’s face then broke into meek smiles

Heaven & earth to peace beguiles.

William Blake 3

This short poem relates back to Blake’s themes of innocence and experience, because the protagonist is an innocent infant, though, as we all know, a leader of the Macedonian Empire. I wanted to play with the notions of innocence and heaven, as is common in Blake’s poetry, comparing little Alexander to an angel. Experience, also plays a part here, as Alexander is already having motives unlike his mother had perceived: he sees the people happy and the land great, and instead of marveling at it, he dreams of taking it for himself. I wanted to also give an innocent intention behind this though—I didn’t want Alexander to come across as an anti-Christ child who in infancy already thinks of destruction—I wanted to give him a realistic motive as a child. He wants to bring back the things he’s seen to his mother.

-Sara Nuila-Chae

 

 

 

I was intrigued to see Blake included a poem titled “Infant Sorrow” in Songs of Experience. Although I knew that Songs of Experience offered contrary poems to Songs of Innocence, “Infant Joy” was not a poem I expected to have a contrary poem. An infant is the epitome of innocence—he has absolutely no worldly experience, and he is not old enough to know of the sorrows and corruption of the world. For this reason, I expected “Infant Joy” to be a standalone poem—for Blake to utilize it as a way of showing “true innocence,” especially when compared to Songs of Experience.

By including “Infant Sorrow” in Songs of Experience, I think that Blake is making a very poignant statement. The infant itself has no worldly experience; therefore this poem can hardly be considered a song of “experience.” What does this say about human nature? Can it be assumed that infants are truly the only joyous humans because of their lack of knowledge and corruption, as Songs of Innocence would have you believe? “Infant Sorrow” paints a much darker picture of humanity, beginning as early as birth. The baby’s unhappiness seems to imply that sorrow is an inherent human trait, and that it is not experience that corrupts human nature, but the very natures that we are born with. This problematizes our reading of “Infant Joy”—is the baby actually happy, or is it a fleeting joy that will soon be lost to a life of sorrow? And is there anything that can preserve that joy, or is humanity destined for sorrow, regardless of experience?