Tag Archive: Songs of Innocence


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“Pixar Movie about a Tiger/Beetle”

by Bradley Dexter Christian

Dual powers contend in William Blake’s “A Dream” from Songs of Innocence and “The Tyger” from Songs of Experience, reminding me of the climax from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book in which the main antagonist, a tiger (Shere Khan) battles the Red Flower. The poems illustrate several animals like ants, worms, and beetles for comparing them to the much larger, and more predatory tiger, which is described in the latter poem’s image editorialization as having a smile. Blake’s speaker in “A Dream” questions “did he smile his work to see?” (Blake 39) suggesting that sinister tiger has, as in the Kipling narrative, fallen prey to cyclical, primitive violence, and is being burned by human fire, “hand, dare sieze the fire?” (Blake ). If the poem’s action does depict the tiger under threat of fire-or shall I say- the tiger has committed an act by which the experience of execution-by-fire is enacted, then Innocence inherently embeds religious valuation to actually form a satirical theology. Blake’s Biblical reading in the marginal footnote on Isaiah 11:6, “Isaiah prophesies that the lion and the lamb shall lie down together,” (25) is forcing “A Dream” to attain a parallel utopian-conservationism by images of peacefully grazing animals being engulfed, “Where on grass methought I Iay,” (Blake 26), and effectively evoking “shade” for producing an optical, dream-like pattern, “Once a dream did weave,” (Blake 26) geometrically wending, as if the speaker has inspirationally beseeched the smaller animals, “Now return and weep for me./ Pitying I drop’d a tear,” (Blake 26, line 12). These images are connotative of an unfamiliar yet seductive narrative, and we can call these cliches availing in both literary and religious forms throughout Songs of Experience as the demonic, “What immortal hand or eye,” (Blake 38, 3) as in Mowgli’s hand holding the lit, flame-bearing torch to the tiger’s face as a consequential thematic plotline, which for Blake acts as a turn to virtuous philosophy, “dare he aspire,” (Blake 38, line 7). Blake repeats the notion of “immortality,” (Blake 39, 23) along with the authoritative question of beast representation, “Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?” (Blake 39, 24). A monotheistic comprehension therefore becomes problematic as the speaker of “The Tyger” approaches limits of humanity.

A better way to approach the problem of Blake’s difference of the two poems involves redefining the speaker of Innocence as the actual tiger from Experience. Integrating this character as the reveling speaker casts a greater view of Innocence to show even the smaller creatures in “A Dream” are accomplices to the fiery destruction brought on by the tiger/tygress in Experience. “I am set to light the ground, While the beetle goes his round,” (Blake 26, 17-18) is indicating a functioning, unitary agreement between the beasts. A satirical approach will unite the cast of Innocence/Experience– does this mean the Pixar or Dreamworks animators have to imagine animals working together, maybe to stop a corporate deforestation plot before it infiltrates their ecosystem? Or are the bigger beasts Orwellian tigers that guard the insects from exploits of forest survivalism? Performative, fantasy elements and moral reasoning between the negative twin poems help to signify Blakian approach to anthropomorphism. Charles Dickens himself utilizes miniature beast wordplay, specifically using the beetle to serve as the homonym naming of the Beadle, orphan-father in the novel, Oliver Twist. Boundless points of intersectional gender and identity politics from Judith Butler’s double-meanings, Frederic Jameson’s dual power in American human rights discourse, the philosophical turn per Kierkegaard’s religion, and political autobiography on Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois’s double-consciousness are located in the discursive areas between Blake’s A Dream” and “The Tyger,” while ranging beasts from common insects to the largest-cat species known to man in between circuits of Blake’s twin, Gothic poems for containing the discursive struggles known through Blake’s intended meanings, modes of publication, historical moments, etc.

The “weeping” in the Innocence poem ought to be substituted with the smiling in the Experience poem. I want to interpret the aforementioned valuation as a Pixar-Blake adaptation: the tiger and beetle are best friends who have crossed into a portal into the fictional world of cult-horror movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, the cartoon tiger and his insect friend have to join forces with the townspeople and set fire to Freddy Kruger. Such a deconstruction of our religiously-viewed cinema alongside the non-referential buddy folk-trope (Woody and Buzz, Mowgli and the Wolves, Princess Belle and the magical, household products) appearing with two proportionately-unmatched protagonists for illuminating Blake’s twin poems’ complementary beast poetics and for being simultaneous responses and platform to critically understanding trends in the religious orders varying several, hundreds of years. 

-Brad

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What a Beautiful World

The following story line reveals the “Innocence” of a child’s understanding, or lack thereof.  While in some of the writings I wrote the mother as the speaker, it is to be inferred that the child is listening, but again with a naivety.  Blake wrote much about the innocence of children in “Songs of Innocence.”  In one of the pictures I chose, the mother and child are black.  I chose to place this here, aside both other depictions where the families are white, in order to show that the black child has some sense of his place in the world, but yet still may not totally know yet.  On the other hand, while the white mothers and children will experience a different perspective of life, I still feel that the white children, too, will be entering a world of chaos, which Blake reveals in the other book. -Marcy Martinez

littleblackboy

My child, how shall I explain.
It seems that you understand the vain.
It seems as though you know your place,
It seems as if you know your name.
How can I explain to thee,
That lines and divides shall conquer we.
But still I shall guide thee with utter strength.
Leading you to a special rank
To me, your shade of skin
Is beyond a beauty.
And God only sees, what should He.

s-inn.b.p5-25.100

My sight is pure, so far I see.
No corruption, only smiles of teeth.
No idea of what color means.
No clue of the difference
between poor and elite.
My mother’s eyes, happy to be.
She carries me, with liberty.
She embraces me, with a loving touch.
She shows me the world,
But not too much.
Im happy in this life of mine.
Sunshine, skies, and butterflies.
No sense of ill or woes,
Just living a life, knowing
Where I shall go.

s-inn.b.p12-10.100

Looking down upon these two,
Feeling blessed for what they do.
They shall bask in the light of the sun
And their skin.
They shall live in a world
Where they shall not sin.
These two will go onto know it all.
Through seasons, survive,
Winter, Spring, and Fall.
All a while, gaining a sense of knowledge.
Looking forward to the day,
They make it to college.

For the post next Wednesday (1/31), students will choose 3-4 plate designs from The Songs of Innocence (from any of the editions accessible in the Blake Archive, listed under “Friends & Links” below) to create your own story about this compilation of “songs.”  You will arrange these plates in any order that helps illustrate your specific narrative, and this order need not follow any of the arrangements found in the various copies of The Songs of Innocence.  In other words, set your imagination free and become a true Genius!

Insert these designs into your post and then write a short paragraph or two that interprets the embedded narrative that threads your arrangement and justifies your particular ordering.  Ideally, your story should address the larger themes, images, and motifs that define The Songs of Innocence as a whole.  Place the post under the category “Innocence, Eden, and Childhood” and don’t forget to create specific and engaging tags.  And most importantly, please HAVE FUN!!!

The post is due this Wednesday, 1/31.

 

Instructions on inserting images into your blog post:

1. Find the image you want on the Blake Archive under the “Illuminated Books” tab.  Feel free to use “The Songs of Innocence” or the joint “The Songs of Innocence & Experience,” or both, of whatever edition (or combination thereof) you choose.

2. Right click on the image and go to “Save picture as.”  Save it in your laptop or PC.

3.  In your post, click on “Add Media” (in the upper right), then “upload files,” and then “select files.”  Choose the desired image from your picture files.  Under the “Attachment Details” side window you will select your specifications (make sure your images are large and easy to view) and then click “insert into post” once you are done.

For the post next Wednesday (1/31), students will choose 3-4 plate designs from The Songs of Innocence (from any of the editions accessible in the Blake Archive, listed under “Friends & Links” below) to create your own story about this compilation of “songs.”  You will arrange these plates in any order that helps illustrate your specific narrative, and this order need not follow any of the arrangements found in the various copies of The Songs of Innocence.  In other words, set your imagination free and become a true Genius!

Insert these designs into your post and then write a short paragraph or two that interprets the embedded narrative that threads your arrangement and justifies your particular ordering.  Ideally, your story should address the larger themes, images, and motifs that define The Songs of Innocence as a whole.  Place the post under the category “Innocence, Eden, and Childhood” and don’t forget to create specific and engaging tags.  And most importantly, please HAVE FUN!!!

The post is due this Wednesday, 1/31.

 

Instructions on inserting images into your blog post:

1. Find the image you want on the Blake Archive under the “Illuminated Books” tab.  Feel free to use “The Songs of Innocence” or the joint “The Songs of Innocence & Experience,” or both, of whatever edition (or combination thereof) you choose.

2. Right click on the image and go to “Save picture as.”  Save it in your laptop or PC.

3.  In your post, click on “Add Media” (in the upper right), then “upload files,” and then “select files.”  Choose the desired image from your picture files.  Under the “Attachment Details” side window you will select your specifications (make sure your images are large and easy to view) and then click “insert into post” once you are done.

Holy Thursdays

Last week, I explored “Holy Thursday” from Songs of Innocence. In considering which two poems to examine as contraries, I immediately became interested in expanding my exploration of the original “Holy Thursday” by comparing it to its twin of the same name in Songs of Experience. The first difference I noted is the lack of a illustration associated with the “Holy Thursday” from Songs of Experience. I believe this is indicative of the fact that the children discussed in each version are one and the same. In Songs of Innocence, these children were singing to their benefactors. While I initially saw these children as another example, like that found in “The Lamb,” of joyful childhood innocence, upon further examination, I began to see the dark undertones associated with their performance. Instead of being ideal images of the lamb, these children are a herd of lambs blindly following their leaders, leaders who can teach falsehoods. Thus, Blake uses the second “Holy Thursday” to leave no doubt in the reader’s mind that these children are indicative of a much darker part of childhood, a childhood robbed of its innocence. In “Holy Thursday,” the reader is reintroduced to these children. Here, instead of participating in a lavish and false show, the children are living their everyday lives, lives that their benefactors hope to shield themselves from. Blake urges the benefactors and all of humanity to confront the ugly truth of the lives of these children in Songs of Innocence. In Songs of Experience, he forces them to confront the reality by conveying it through his poem.

The LambHoly ThursdayThe Divine Image

The three images above all deal with some dimension of the likeness between God and mankind. I have arranged them in this order, moving from “The Lamb” to “Holy Thursday” and finishing with “The Divine Image” because I saw a natural sequential development of the course of the three plates. Beginning in “The Lamb,” Blake explores the likeness  between three triangulated figures, Jesus, a lamb, and a child. As part of “Songs of Innocence,” this poem explores the innocence of all three creatures. The innocence of children is what I found to be the most important theme or motif running throughout the plates in “Songs of Innocence.”  The similarities between children and lambs continues into the second plate “Holy Thursday.” Through the change in perspective from a child in “The Lamb” to a speaker that seems decidedly separate from the innocence of children and almost nostalgic for that lost innocence, the development that occurs over the course of these plates begins. The speaker is an observer of their innocence and is so moved by their presence and purity that he elevates these children, too often shunned by society, to angels. With “The Divine Image,” a final expansion of the original likeness explored in “The Lamb” occurs in “The Divine Image.” Here Blake departs from the innocence of children and explores the divine attributes of mankind in general. “Songs of Experience” deals with the capability adulthood has of destroying the innocence found in childhood. Blake offers some hope for a connection with the divine past childhood by reminding readers that all men have the qualities of Mercy, Pity, and Peace inside him.

songsie.z.p13.100

This is a story about a lost child’s desire for a home. A little boy is abandoned by his father in a dark wet wood. He is very frightened because he knows he cannot find his own way home.

songsie.z.p12.100

The same little boy is then found and apprenticed to a chimney sweep. As he is too young to know who he is, he is given the name Tom Dacre. In a new dangerous environment, the little boy wants a family of chimney sweeps around him. He fantasizes that an angel has come down from Heaven to give him other apprentice sweeps to play with. He fantasizes that the angel tells him God is his father, and an older sweep reassures him that he will be well looked after if he does his duty.

songsie.z.p26.100

So the little boy remains a sweep. One night, he dreams about an ant who has lost her family. In the dream, the ant’s story has a happy ending. Other insects, which are possibly God in disguise, show the mother ant the way back home to her children. The little boy takes comfort from the idea that he might one day be reunited with his mother in Heaven.

*

I chose these three plates because they all concern the importance of child-parent relationships. Separating “The Little Boy Lost” from “The Little Boy Found” makes it a much darker poem in which the action of the father can be interpreted in the worst possible way and the child is clearly deeply distressed by it. As the Songs of Innocence poems include many young children, it was easy to imagine that the little boys in “The Little Boy Lost” and “The Chimney Sweeper” were the same. In both, young boys with no father deeply desire to find one but the only way the chimney sweep can have one is from a dream. This dream may be intended as more than a pure fantasy, but I would suggest that the boy is coping with his hard situation in the only way he can, by using his imagination. Earthly fathers seem to be inadequate if not downright dangerous in Songs of Innocence, but children still long for them and the security and comfort a family brings. Placing “The Dream” after “The Chimney Sweep,” I hoped to make it sound more like just a dream and a way the chimney sweep has of coping. “The Chimney Sweep” shows the power of the imagination in children, but also how their imaginative lives can become more important to them than their real lives. Although their imaginative lives help them cope with their real lives, they also give them false hope. In reality, the little boy is probably going to be abandoned again as soon as he grows too big to climb a chimney. Together the poems conceptualize home as a state of being with loved ones rather than a place.

 

 

 

the a posteriori becomes the a priori concretely and not merely in the general”  –Theodor Adorno, from “The Essay as Form”

This tale, like any good Bildungsroman, begins with a tutelary image—halcyon and filled with heavy promise. Adulthood sacrifices security for its affinity with open intellectual experience, but childhood need not make such trade-offs. In childhood, intellectual experience is radically open as it is not preconditioned and the child operates under the aegis of necessary naiveté and parental protection. As such, the child need not construct consolations; the world appears unified and docile, welcoming, mystified. The force behind the framework in which we must learn to operate is as yet unknown and so the world remains idyllic. Yet, as the contorted tree suggests in the first image, the nivellating and ossifying iron cage of rationalization, the bitter fruit from Eden’s tree—our means of later reconciling ourselves to the world—waits at the wings, and, as the foliage that grades into flame implies, such beauty as innocence is but a brusque flare. The foreboding skies above the young boy in the second suggest as much, as well, even though now, he engages his world without mediation, does not reify or reduce the object of his contemplation to something other than itself.

william_blake_title_page_songs_of_innocence               lamb

As a matter of course, the idyllic lapses and the child is sent out into the world, which is the bugbear and blessing of the burgeoning self-awareness that attends aging. One cannot learn from repose alone and asylum quickly stagnates—such is our lot. Individual experience is consciousness’s point of departure, its necessary divergence from original harmony and the accompanying assurance of solid footing.

Blake_echoing_green

You are what’s fallen from those fatal boughs.

Where will we go when they send us away from here?

Blake_Little_Boy_lost

Unpreventably, the child loses their way—Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita / mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, / ché la diritta via era smarrita. Though in life’s journey “the straight way” is lost, we might still come to ourselves, not in spite of, but because of the “dark wood” in which we find ourselves. Fear and vulnerability leads to self-discovery—i.e., the bright light in the dark forest, in the image. However, we generally clothe it in the sordid assuagements of cynicism and the like. We begin to construct the benign illusions that domesticate our terror and/or aid us in our daily grind, our itch and algos.

william_blake_frontispiece_songs_of_innocence

The old salves all begin to smack of mendaciousness, elan, and caprice, as adulthood dawns, and new ones are conceived or concocted, picked up for a song or at heavy cost. Times prior, the grown child’s fond memories, seem to speak of another affection, but did they promise such? The child, now an adult, returns to the originary, seeks the beginning to know their end. Something like a conversion experience, like Saul on the road to Damascus, occurs. Innocence is not truly noticed or known until one has lapsed from it and self-consciousness is not gained unless one has done so. Value is learned in loss. Memory—here, the hovering cherub or imp—affords reflection, acts as the articulation between innocence and awareness. Conversion necessitates a continuity as well as a discontinuity with the life that is and the life that was, but this, at the close, is not so much a conversion as a homecoming—a prodigal son returning.

And I stain’d the water clear

Works Cited

Adorno, Theodor. “The Essay as Form.” Notes to Literature. Trans. Shierry Weber Nicholson. Vol. 1. New York: Columbia UP, 1991. N. pag. Print. (pg. 10)

Blake, William. Blake’s Poetry and Designs. Ed. Mary Lynn Johnson and John E. Grant. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. Print.

Dante, Alighieri. Inferno. Trans. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander. New York: Doubleday, 2000. Print.  (pg.3)

Ferry, David. “In Eden.” ‘In Eden’ by David Ferry :. The Poetry Foundation, July-Aug. 2011. Web. 03 Sept. 2013. <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/242300&gt;.

Blake and Wonderland

Rifle through Songs of Innocence and you’ll discern both a literary and artistic analog in the well-known children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who wrote under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. Though written some tens of years apart, the former in 1785 and the latter in 1865, one encounters undeniable parallels in both works. These similarities vary from the more obvious, such as each texts’ accompaniment by engraved fascimiles or illustrations—the inclusion of which is necessary in making the work comprehensible and less cryptic—to the more complex, entering the commentative realm. Carroll, based on his incorporation of the imaginative, particular thematic elements, and critical analysis and allegory, is unarguably a contemporary of William Blake and, by Blakean definition, an exhibitor of Poetic Genius. Carroll evidently turned to Blake as a source of inspiration and possibly even reinforcement as he embarked on a seemingly controversial and unorthodox literary and artistic journey, weaving the vividly eccentric, or at least seemingly so, account of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

 

Moravian Motherhood

I find it quite ironic that Moravian spirituality centralized sexual experimentation, most especially during the Sifting Time, while simultaneously placing much emphasis on female figures, principally the mother,and “aiming to become ever more childlike and simple” (Podmore, 132). While it is obvious that sexual desire and passion precede motherhood and that these two feelings enter the vein of childhood during the end stages of innocence, it baffles me that these wholly divergent facets are upheld and revered so equitably. Herein lies an intermingling of contraries that perhaps aims to reach followers at different stages of development, maturity, and, dare I say, corruption (i.e. experience). Perhaps this is the Moravian Church’s goal: to provide such a broad and accepting platform and appeal to a larger audience that otherwise may have been ousted or stigmatized by other churches whose dogmas were strict and were what we may in modern times deem “stringently conservative.” I’d like to focus for a moment more intently on the importance of female figures and the influence of the mother. Blake’s very upbringing echoes this aspect of the Moravian religion in that his mother, Catherine Wright Armitage, was a faithful Moravian along with her first husband, Thomas Armitage. Blake’s connection to the religion and its values is tied to the fact that a devout Moravian reared him. The mimetic quality of a child’s religious and moral beliefs during the period of innocence definitely exposed Blake to the sexually explicit and viscerally energetic Moravian religion. His transition to form his own religion or, arguably, a religion-less world in which each individual seeks his/ own Poetic Genius through artistic expression and self exploration, fastens Blake firmly in the world of Experience described in his “Songs.”