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Songs Of Innocence and Songs Of Experience: (Special Edition) (Poetry Essentials) (Volume 10)

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Songs of Innocence and of Experience est un recueil de poésie du peintre et poète pré-romantique britannique William Blake. Il est publié en deux temps : quelques exemplaires sont imprimés et illustrés par Blake lui-même en 1789, sous le titre Songs of Innocence. Cinq ans plus tard, il lie ces premiers poèmes à de nouveaux textes sous le titre Songs of Experience, publiant Songs of Innocence and of Experience est un recueil de poésie du peintre et poète pré-romantique britannique William Blake. Il est publié en deux temps : quelques exemplaires sont imprimés et illustrés par Blake lui-même en 1789, sous le titre Songs of Innocence. Cinq ans plus tard, il lie ces premiers poèmes à de nouveaux textes sous le titre Songs of Experience, publiant l'ensemble sous le titre Songs of Innocence and of Experience Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.


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Songs of Innocence and of Experience est un recueil de poésie du peintre et poète pré-romantique britannique William Blake. Il est publié en deux temps : quelques exemplaires sont imprimés et illustrés par Blake lui-même en 1789, sous le titre Songs of Innocence. Cinq ans plus tard, il lie ces premiers poèmes à de nouveaux textes sous le titre Songs of Experience, publiant Songs of Innocence and of Experience est un recueil de poésie du peintre et poète pré-romantique britannique William Blake. Il est publié en deux temps : quelques exemplaires sont imprimés et illustrés par Blake lui-même en 1789, sous le titre Songs of Innocence. Cinq ans plus tard, il lie ces premiers poèmes à de nouveaux textes sous le titre Songs of Experience, publiant l'ensemble sous le titre Songs of Innocence and of Experience Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.

30 review for Songs Of Innocence and Songs Of Experience: (Special Edition) (Poetry Essentials) (Volume 10)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs the Bookdragon

    “Am not I A fly like thee? Or art not thou A man like me?” Out of all the poetry I have read, these four lines are amongst my favourite. They have stuck with me over several years and seem to resonate within me. I’ve even considered having them tattooed onto my arm. Why these lines? You may ask. It’s simple really: they say so much. Different readings can be made here, but the one I see most strongly is man talking to nature. Man questions it; he asks if he is the same as nature and if nature is t “Am not I A fly like thee? Or art not thou A man like me?” Out of all the poetry I have read, these four lines are amongst my favourite. They have stuck with me over several years and seem to resonate within me. I’ve even considered having them tattooed onto my arm. Why these lines? You may ask. It’s simple really: they say so much. Different readings can be made here, but the one I see most strongly is man talking to nature. Man questions it; he asks if he is the same as nature and if nature is the same as him. Is not the fly equal to him? Is not the fly’s life just as valuable as his own? All life is precious, and what I read here is a man coming to the realisation that this is so. Nature is valuable, and no matter how high man may place himself all life remains the same; it is the same force: the same energy. It could also be a bourgeoisie facing a member of the lower class and realising the same thing, but I prefer to stick with the human to animal relationship. Nature is huge, the ecosystem is huge. And, again, no matter how high man may place himself he is still just another cog on an ever turning mechanism. In the modern world he has damaged the system, the environment, but he is still part of a greater whole. And his part is no more important than that of the rest of the cogs. What I read in Blake’s words is an ideal, a projection of a semi-paradise; one man can perhaps reach if when he has gained experience he remembers where he came from: his innocence. Blake’s poetry is marvellously deceptive; it appears so simple, but that’s the beauty of it. Hidden behind the seemingly innocent childlike songs is a sense of irony, sarcasm and genius. The speakers of the poems describe the world as they see it; it is a mere reflection of their own limited perceptions; they see the world through a childlike and predetermined state. In essence, they see what they are meant to see, and nothing beyond that. Well, not until they gain experience and look back on their own folly. Even at this stage, Blake portrays the duality of the human soul; the two states coexist and inform each other. From this collection of poetry I’m left with the impression that these two stages are necessary for human development, but not exclusively so; it’s like Blake is suggesting that one should be able to see the world as an aspect of both. Throughout the poetry Blake also questions the meaning of standard religion and proposes his own ideas of a more natural approach to divinity. He believed that the gods existed within the bosom of man, and not in an exogenous limited interpretation. In this, he is a true Romantic poet. The more poetry I read in this age, the more I come to appreciate this idea. Blake’s poetry stands out amongst the crowd though. He used a completely unique style to get his the two states of the human soul across to the reader. But, again, he reflects the movement; his poems have a heavy emphasis on the freedom of self-expression and can only really be appreciated in conjunction with the plates he engraved them on. He was a true artist: "Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" Indeed, for me, the comparison between the “Lamb” and the “Tyger” cannot be appreciated without looking at the images. The two poems are not simply about different animal types. They are about good and evil; they are a comparison of the badness and benevolence of humankind. The lamb represents the most profound sense of inexperience; it is innocence and pure: it is docile and vulnerable in its infancy. In this it is comparable to the Christian saviour: it is the best degree of humanity. The Tyger, on the other hand, has a corrupt heart. He represents the negative aspects of humankind, and can be interpreted as part of industrialisation, commerce and power. Through this comparison the narrator of the poems questions how a creator could forge two opposing states. What is the purpose of such a thing? When the experience section has been read, it is vital to go back and look at innocence. It changes the nature of the poems, as the implicit becomes explicit. The layers of meaning are multiple and complex. I could spend a day pondering over some of them, but for me the most memorable one is “the fly” for the reasons I discussed: it will always stay with me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥

    I have to admit that I rarely read poetry, not because I don’t want to but mostly because my library usually doesn’t have the kind of poetry that I long for. So imagine my surprise when I found this little new gem in between one of my beloved and already so very familiar bookshelves. It was love at first sight and I don’t regret anything. <3 ”O Rose, thou art sick. The invisible worm, That flies in the night In the howling storm: Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy: And his dark secret love Does th I have to admit that I rarely read poetry, not because I don’t want to but mostly because my library usually doesn’t have the kind of poetry that I long for. So imagine my surprise when I found this little new gem in between one of my beloved and already so very familiar bookshelves. It was love at first sight and I don’t regret anything. <3 ”O Rose, thou art sick. The invisible worm, That flies in the night In the howling storm: Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy: And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy.” - The Sick Rose William Blake is definitely one of my favourite poets and I can recommend this to everyone who doesn’t only like his poetry but also appreciates his art. =) P.S: "A Poison Tree", "The Tyger" and "London" are really good as well! ;-)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    Tyger! Tyger! burning bright, In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?I don’t think I would dare give any collection of poems that contains the above lines anything less than five stars. Luckily, although every poem isn’t a winner for me (cough*Laughing Song*cough), there are so many immortal poems in this collection that I don’t feel the least bit guilty for giving the collection the full five stars. I started collecting some of my favorite lines Tyger! Tyger! burning bright, In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?I don’t think I would dare give any collection of poems that contains the above lines anything less than five stars. Luckily, although every poem isn’t a winner for me (cough*Laughing Song*cough), there are so many immortal poems in this collection that I don’t feel the least bit guilty for giving the collection the full five stars. I started collecting some of my favorite lines to put in this review (not even the whole poem in many cases), and when I got to three pages in Word I realized I would have to restrain myself from posting half the collection in this review. This review is still going to be on the long side, but you’ll have to just deal. :) William Blake, one of the most well-known authors of the Romantic era, published this short collection of poems or songs in the late 1700s. The full title was “Songs of Innocence and of Experience Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul,” which aptly describes the dichotomy echoed in most of these poems, with innocent Christian belief and pastoral joy in the foreground in the nineteen Songs of Innocence, and dark cynicism, criticism of man’s institutions (including churches), and even despair playing a more prominent role in the twenty-seven Songs of Experience. In fact, many of the poems in the Innocence set have their darker counterpart in the Experience set. So you go from “The Lamb”:Little Lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? Little Lamb, I'll tell thee, Little Lamb, I'll tell thee, He is called by thy name, For he calls himself a Lamb. He is meek, & he is mild; He became a little child. I a child, & thou a lamb, We are called by his name.to “The Tyger”:When the stars threw down their spears, And water'd heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?Even in the more lighthearted Songs of Innocence, more often than not there’s a dark undercurrent, a hint (or sometimes a slap across the face) that the narrator of the poem is being unintentionally ironic:"The Little Black Boy" My mother bore me in the southern wild, And I am black, but O! my soul is white; White as an angel is the English child, But I am black, as if bereav'd of light. … And thus I say to little English boy: When I from black and he from white cloud free, And round the tent of God like lambs we joy, I'll shade him from the heat, till he can bear To lean in joy upon our father's knee; And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair, And be like him, and he will then love me.That last line is a heartbreaker. Even though the black boy sees that the white child is equally under a cloud, he still can’t imagine being accepted by him until he looks like him. Similarly, we have “The Chimney Sweeper,” where the young boys sold by their destitute families to be chimney sweepers’ assistants ― a terrible, cold, dirty job ― aptly cry “weep” in their childish lisps instead of "sweep":When my mother died I was very young, And my father sold me while yet my tongue Could scarcely cry " 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!" So your chimneys I sweep, & in soot I sleep. There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head, That curl'd like a lamb's back, was shav'd: so I said "Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when you head's bare You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair." And so he was quiet, & that very night, As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight! That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack, Were all of them lock'd up in coffins of black. And by came an Angel who had a bright key, And he open'd the coffins & set them free; Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run, And wash in a river, and shine in the Sun. Then naked & white, all their bags left behind, They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind; And the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy, He'd have God for his father, & never want joy. And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark, And got with our bags & our brushes to work, Tho the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm, So if all do their duty they need not fear harm.Such an indictment of those who mistreat children and the less fortunate among us! This next one has stuck with my since I studied it in college. Even if you have Christian beliefs (as I do), you have to admit that the institutions of churches have often been misused by those in power. The last lines are haunting: “The Garden of Love” I went to the Garden of Love, And saw what I never had seen: A Chapel was built in the midst, Where I used to play on the green. And the gates of this Chapel were shut, And “Thou shalt not” writ over the door; So I turn'd to the Garden of Love That so many sweet flowers bore; And I saw it was filled with graves, And tomb-stones where flowers should be; And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds, And binding with briars my joys & desires. Notice how the meter and rhyme change in those last two lines ― there’s something inexorable about it. A few more: I appreciate the insight into the effects of anger and grudges offered by “A Poison Tree”:I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow. And I water'd it in fears, Night & morning with my tears; And I sunned it with smiles, And with soft deceitful wiles. And it grew both day and night, Till it bore an apple bright; And my foe beheld it shine, And he knew that it was mine, And into my garden stole When the night had veil'd the pole: In the morning glad I see My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree.And the stultifying strictures and chains of society get a knock in “London”:I wander thro' each charter'd street, Near where the charter'd Thames does flow, And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every Man, In every Infant's cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.I’ll go back to the Songs of Innocence to end on a more hopeful note: “On Another's Sorrow” Can I see another's woe, And not be in sorrow too? Can I see another's grief, And not seek for kind relief? Can I see a falling tear, And not feel my sorrow's share? Can a father see his child Weep, nor be with sorrow fill'd? … He doth give his joy to all; He becomes an infant small; He becomes a man of woe; He doth feel the sorrow too. Think not thou canst sigh a sigh And thy maker is not by; Think not thou canst weep a tear And thy maker is not near. O! he gives to us his joy That our grief he may destroy; Till our grief is fled & gone He doth sit by us and moan.I highly recommend this collection, and you can find copies of it free all over the web. A couple of notes on bonus material: When this book was originally published, each poem was handwritten by Blake on a separate page with an original painting that he did to go with that poem. For example: They're worth looking up, and often add to understanding of the meaning or intent of the poem. Also, many of these "Songs of Innocence and of Experience" actually were songs: at least some of them were set to music. As far as I'm aware none of the original tunes used by Blake have survived, but different people since have tried their hand at setting some of them to music, with varying results. Wikipedia links several of these modern song versions of the poems. I haven't checked them out yet, but if I find any good ones I'll link them here. 2016 Classic Bingo Challenge: 5 down, 19 to go.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    Billy Blake Who Made Thee? Poet Poet, burning bright, In the stanzas of the night; What romantic coquetry, Could frame thy fearful poetry? In what distant when or whys, roll'd the epic of thine eyes? On wet verse dare he aspire? What poet's hand, robs Shelly's pyre? And what meter, & what art, Could twist the cadence of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread iambs? & what dread feet? What the motif? what the type, In what belly was thy gripe? What the image? what simile, Dare its Billy Blake Who Made Thee? Poet Poet, burning bright, In the stanzas of the night; What romantic coquetry, Could frame thy fearful poetry? In what distant when or whys, roll'd the epic of thine eyes? On wet verse dare he aspire? What poet's hand, robs Shelly's pyre? And what meter, & what art, Could twist the cadence of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread iambs? & what dread feet? What the motif? what the type, In what belly was thy gripe? What the image? what simile, Dare its deadly metaphors be! When all critics threw down their pens And water'd heaven twixt now and then: Did Marx his smile his classes see? Did he who made cultural criticism make thee? Poet Poet, burning bright, In the stanzas of the night; What romantic coquetry, Could frame thy fearful poetry?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Florencia

    ...Folly is an endless maze; Tangled roots perplex her ways; How many have fallen there! They stumble all night over bones of the dead; And feel — they know not what but care; And wish to lead others, when they should be led. - William Blake, "The Voice of the Ancient Bard" The smile of a child. The face of a lamb. The purity of maternal love. Solidarity. These are images chosen by Blake to convey his thoughts on innocence. When I think of innocence, I cannot help picturing in my head the greenest mead ...Folly is an endless maze; Tangled roots perplex her ways; How many have fallen there! They stumble all night over bones of the dead; And feel — they know not what but care; And wish to lead others, when they should be led. - William Blake, "The Voice of the Ancient Bard" The smile of a child. The face of a lamb. The purity of maternal love. Solidarity. These are images chosen by Blake to convey his thoughts on innocence. When I think of innocence, I cannot help picturing in my head the greenest meadows, sheltered by the warm light of the sun, and the sound of a nearby river serving as a mirror to reflect your own thoughts. Such an idyllic setting is an invitation to contemplate your own soul. For me, the countryside is where anything can happen. I feel hopeful. I find rest. I make time stand still; I see bliss. And I accept the countryside's cruelty on a dark, rainy day. That is the inevitable dichotomy of any form of life. Innocence. To see the world through the eyes of a child. Something so necessary, and so distant. Something that we lose too soon, now. Simply too soon. Laughing Song When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy, And the dimpling stream runs laughing by; When the air does laugh with our merry wit, And the green hill laughs with the noise of it; When the meadows laugh with lively green, And the grasshopper laughs in the merry scene; When Mary and Susan and Emily With their sweet round mouths sing 'Ha ha he!' When the painted birds laugh in the shade, Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread: Come live, and be merry, and join with me, To sing the sweet chorus of 'Ha ha he!' (10) Night The sun descending in the West, The evening star does shine; The birds are silent in their nest, And I must seek for mine. The moon, like a flower In heaven's high bower, With silent delight, Sits and smiles on the night. Farewell, green fields and happy groves, Where flocks have took delight, Where lambs have nibbled, silent moves The feet of angels bright; Unseen, they pour blessing, And joy without ceasing, On each bud and blossom, And each sleeping bosom... (14) Different perspectives. The pain of adulthood. The fight between love and selfishness. The corruption of innocence and our salvation. Our preservation: the world will not eat us alive—apparently. The fear of what is to come. Of the unknown. The gray despair of aging. These are some of the images of Blake's Experience. The Clod and the Pebble 'Love seeketh not itself to please, Nor for itself hath any care, But for another gives its ease, And builds a heaven in hell's despair.' So sung a little clod of clay, Trodden with the cattle's feet, But a pebble of the brook Warbled out these metres meet: 'Love seeketh only Self to please, To bind another to its delight, Joys in another's loss of ease, And builds a hell in heaven's despite.' (23) Ah, sunflower Ah, sunflower, weary of time, Who countest the steps of the sun; Seeking after that sweet golden clime Where the traveller's journey is done; Where the Youth pined away with desire, And the pale virgin shrouded in snow, Arise from their graves, and aspire Where my Sunflower wishes to go! (36) London I wander through each chartered street, Near where the chartered Thames does flow, A mark in every face I meet, Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every man, In every infant's cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, The mind-forged manacles I hear: How the chimney-sweeper's cry Every blackening church appals, And the hapless soldier's sigh Runs in blood down palace-walls. But most, through midnight streets I hear How the youthful harlot's curse Blasts the new-born infant's tear, And blights with plagues the marriage hearse. (40) The lyrical voice of this fine poet stands out for its apparent simplicity. Blake knew his surroundings too well. He was aware of the social and political situation of his time as well as the spiritual concerns of human beings. And he transferred them to his pages to make them immortal. His sensitive and evocative poetry can conquer the most anxious soul and give it an ideal place to rest for a while. Jul 30, 14 * Also on my blog.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    Well, one lousy review can't do Blake's poems any justice, not unless you're flush with time and the soul of a poet, yourself. :) I can say, however, that the title kinda gives the whole gig away. :) The first section is rife with allusions to Jesus and the second is full of wry and rather sarcastic religious revolutionary insights that I *clearly* appreciate much more than the innocent ones. :) Yes, love should be shown! No, life should not be this dreary and repressed thing. :) I particularly l Well, one lousy review can't do Blake's poems any justice, not unless you're flush with time and the soul of a poet, yourself. :) I can say, however, that the title kinda gives the whole gig away. :) The first section is rife with allusions to Jesus and the second is full of wry and rather sarcastic religious revolutionary insights that I *clearly* appreciate much more than the innocent ones. :) Yes, love should be shown! No, life should not be this dreary and repressed thing. :) I particularly love how Blake uses limited PoV narrations, from a little child or an old bard. The mirroring of both characters and themes really does a big number on both types of poetry. I only wish I was reading it with the engravings. :) Such classics! Well worth the Experience. Everyone should Experience it. :)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    I adore William Blake's poetry and this illustrated collection is fantastic. Unlike other British poets from centuries back (like John Donne for example), his text is usually far easier to read even without a thesaurus and always delightful and full of imagery. a Must!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lit Bug

    My first brush with Blake was through the impeccable poem London more than a decade back. Since then, I'd got to read more poems of his, all carefully chosen by the academicians, quickly putting him in my list of favorite poets. Then before I reached my twenties, I read this little collection, and liked it immensely. Songs of Innocence was what I was looking for, with its naïve outlook on life, the idyllic pictures of innocence I was unwilling to leave behind on my trek to youth. I was enamored ( My first brush with Blake was through the impeccable poem London more than a decade back. Since then, I'd got to read more poems of his, all carefully chosen by the academicians, quickly putting him in my list of favorite poets. Then before I reached my twenties, I read this little collection, and liked it immensely. Songs of Innocence was what I was looking for, with its naïve outlook on life, the idyllic pictures of innocence I was unwilling to leave behind on my trek to youth. I was enamored (and still am) by the introductory piece: (view spoiler)[Piping down the valleys wild Piping songs of pleasant glee On a cloud I saw a child. And he laughing said to me. Pipe a song about a Lamb; So I piped with merry chear, Piper pipe that song again— So I piped, he wept to hear. Drop thy pipe thy happy pipe Sing thy songs of happy chear, So I sung the same again While he wept with joy to hear. Piper sit thee down and write In a book that all may read— So he vanish'd from my sight. And I pluck'd a hollow reed. And I made a rural pen, And I stain'd the water clear, And I wrote my happy songs Every child may joy to hear. (hide spoiler)] To me, this was that drop of amnesiac honey that helped me get over the agony of the house-shifting we'd done that summer more than a decade ago, from a lush green safe township in the corner of the city to a closer-to-the-city, concrete-laden, greenery-starved, space-crunched area. It wasn't all that bad either, as I discovered later, but none of the former beauty of greeting the morning sun flanked by luxurious trees amidst the warbling of a dozen different birds remained. Suddenly, I was waking up to a harsh sun with no shady trees, and hardly any birds. Gone were the little gardens that every small home had. Now we had a larger home, with barely any space for even potted plants, let alone a garden. So yeah, poets like Wordsworth and Blake with their lyrical beauty and pastoral happy images and bleak city images were very much resonant with me. Now so many years later, while retaining my nostalgia for that magical place that had been my h(e)aven for many years, I am better capable of judging this collection from a newer perspective - one that has been shaped by reading many more poems since then, and has also gotten over the shift from innocence to experience, and values both equally. The first section of the collection, Songs of Innocence, now seems to me too simplistic with little exquisite craftsmanship that Wordsworth or Coleridge or even Browning still retains for me. They sound more like little elementary rhyming structures instead of that breath-taking exhilaration I want when I expect nostalgia to sweep over me. Only occasionally do I see those powerful streaks of thought, as in the little piece The Divine Image: And all must love the human form, In heathen, Turk, or Jew; Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell There God is dwelling too. Songs of Experience, however, fared better. There were glimmers of the pain that comes with experience, but also a sense of enlightenment that you wouldn't exchange for anything in the world, not even that former unblemished and profound innocence. But those bright powerful streaks ended soon, like a comet - blink-and-miss. I liked only 4 poems out of them all, but they are among those I often like to read frequently for their common-sense and quaint charm, such as 'Tyger', with its gripping structure and short lines, Or The Clod and the Pebble: Love seeketh not itself to please, nor for itself hath any care, but for another gives its ease and builds a Heaven in Hell's despair. or A Poison Tree, which was a simple but beautiful piece. But London by far remains my favorite, and I quote it here in full: I wander thro' each charter'd street, Near where the charter'd Thames does flow. And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every Man, In every Infant's cry of fear, In every voice: in every ban, The mind-forg'd manacles I hear. How the Chimney-sweepers cry Every blackning Church appalls, And the hapless Soldier's sigh Runs in blood down Palace walls. But most thro' midnight streets I hear How the youthful Harlot's curse Blasts the new-born Infant's tear And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse. ---------------------------------------------- Overall, I'm rather disappointed. Not only has a childhood favorite collection become a 3-star average affair now, but Blake, as a whole, has come a few steps down the tier. When I started over this book today, I'd expected to be blown over with brilliant images of innocence and experience, but the time has passed rather dully, but thankfully, briefly. The only saving grace is that I still love my old favorite pieces still, especially 'London'. Blake has become a little bleak for me now, but I still cherish the times he gave me, those little shiny lyrics that once upon a time brightened my moods with fond memories of a home I would never return to, of a garden that was no longer mine, of an innocence I was beginning to shed in favor of experience.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kimi

    That moment when your favorite Tv Show makes you read Romantic poetry of the 18th century.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sohaib

    Okay. Four stars. I've read the Songs along with a wonderful commentary by Alan Tomlinson, who juxtaposes contrary poems from Innocence and Experience and explains them in relation to one another. More on his book in a review later. Here's what I think of the Songs: First, a confession. I've read them out loud like an idiot, savoring the crunchy taste of consonants and breathing through the vowels, dancing with some of the poems (the pretty ones) and enjoying the high and low of raising and lower Okay. Four stars. I've read the Songs along with a wonderful commentary by Alan Tomlinson, who juxtaposes contrary poems from Innocence and Experience and explains them in relation to one another. More on his book in a review later. Here's what I think of the Songs: First, a confession. I've read them out loud like an idiot, savoring the crunchy taste of consonants and breathing through the vowels, dancing with some of the poems (the pretty ones) and enjoying the high and low of raising and lowering my pitch for the sake of expression—and for fun really. I think I just wanted to bring the poems into life. Give them more weight and feeling. Why? Because Blake wrote them with the passionate and imaginative voice of Romanticism. He etched and engraved the poems with paintings. He sung them out loud to be set to music in defiance of the stern rationalism of Enlightenment—and the church. The effort he put into his work was just amazing. Nothing passive about him. My advice: be an idiot like me and read them out loud. And if you can, bring someone to do it with you. But for heaven's sake, don't read them passively in silence. I think this was the whole point of Romanticism, to bring feeling and sensation back to life. To reawaken the senses that have been blocked by too much emphasis on reason, on the head. All the painting, the engraving, the etching and the writing—all testify how much Blake was moved by his work, how much feeling he put into it. Here's a favorite specimen of mine: TO TIRZAH Whate'er is born of mortal birth Must be consumèd with the earth, To rise from generation free: Then what have I to do with thee? The sexes sprung from shame and pride, Blowed in the morn, in evening died; But mercy changed death into sleep; The sexes rose to work and weep. Thou, mother of my mortal part, With cruelty didst mould my heart, And with false self-deceiving tears Didst bind my nostrils, eyes, and ears, Didst close my tongue in senseless clay, And me to mortal life betray. The death of Jesus set me free: Then what have I to do with thee?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mike Puma

    A review, of sorts, may be found in Message 1.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Exina

    It was a required reading at English poetry seminar in college. Some parts were quite difficult for me to understand but others were very enjoyable.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    William Blake was an English painter and printmaker, as well as a poet and social critic. In 1789 he printed a small number of his illustrated books of poetry which were colored with paint by hand. The pages of Blake's lovely "Songs of Innocence and Experience" can be seen on the British Library's website: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/wi... The Songs of Innocence depict the world in a pure, childlike innocence. The Songs of Experience look at the world from the view of an adult who can see William Blake was an English painter and printmaker, as well as a poet and social critic. In 1789 he printed a small number of his illustrated books of poetry which were colored with paint by hand. The pages of Blake's lovely "Songs of Innocence and Experience" can be seen on the British Library's website: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/wi... The Songs of Innocence depict the world in a pure, childlike innocence. The Songs of Experience look at the world from the view of an adult who can see the darker side of life. Some of the poems are critical of the institution of the church, the government, and society's lack of concern for the unfortunate. It's especially interesting to read his paired poems that look at the same theme, one poem through the eyes of innocence and the other through the eyes of experience. While I enjoyed some of Blake's poems, I was even more attracted to his artistic work which complemented it so well. As a combined visual and literary experience "Songs of Innocence and Experience" is a special gem.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Priyanka

    William Blake’s short poems profess a narrative far beyond what actually exists on the page. They communicate with incredible power and economy, smashing to smithereens the false structures of existing beliefs and opinions. His poems are like gravel thrown into a pool, ripples radiating outwards indefinitely, stirring everything they touch.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Knarik Avetisyan

    Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience (1794) juxtapose the innocent, pastoral world of childhood against an adult world of corruption and repression; while such poems as “The Lamb” represent a meek virtue, poems like “The Tyger” exhibit opposing, darker forces. Thus the collection as a whole explores the value and limitations of two different perspectives on the world. Many of the poems fall into pairs, so that the same situation or problem is seen through the lens of innocence first and the Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience (1794) juxtapose the innocent, pastoral world of childhood against an adult world of corruption and repression; while such poems as “The Lamb” represent a meek virtue, poems like “The Tyger” exhibit opposing, darker forces. Thus the collection as a whole explores the value and limitations of two different perspectives on the world. Many of the poems fall into pairs, so that the same situation or problem is seen through the lens of innocence first and then experience. Blake does not identify himself wholly with either view; most of the poems are dramatic—that is, in the voice of a speaker other than the poet himself. Blake stands outside innocence and experience, in a distanced position from which he hopes to be able to recognize and correct the fallacies of both. In particular, he pits himself against despotic authority, restrictive morality, sexual repression, and institutionalized religion; his great insight is into the way these separate modes of control work together to squelch what is most holy in human beings. The Songs of Innocence dramatize the naive hopes and fears that inform the lives of children and trace their transformation as the child grows into adulthood. Some of the poems are written from the perspective of children, while others are about children as seen from an adult perspective. Many of the poems draw attention to the positive aspects of natural human understanding prior to the corruption and distortion of experience. Others take a more critical stance toward innocent purity: for example, while Blake draws touching portraits of the emotional power of rudimentary Christian values, he also exposes—over the heads, as it were, of the innocent—Christianity’s capacity for promoting injustice and cruelty. The Songs of Experience work via parallels and contrasts to lament the ways in which the harsh experiences of adult life destroy what is good in innocence, while also articulating the weaknesses of the innocent perspective (“The Tyger,” for example, attempts to account for real, negative forces in the universe, which innocence fails to confront). These latter poems treat sexual morality in terms of the repressive effects of jealousy, shame, and secrecy, all of which corrupt the ingenuousness of innocent love. With regard to religion, they are less concerned with the character of individual faith than with the institution of the Church, its role in politics, and its effects on society and the individual mind. Experience thus adds a layer to innocence that darkens its hopeful vision while compensating for some of its blindness. The style of the Songs of Innocence and Experience is simple and direct, but the language and the rhythms are painstakingly crafted, and the ideas they explore are often deceptively complex. Many of the poems are narrative in style; others, like “The Sick Rose” and “The Divine Image,” make their arguments through symbolism or by means of abstract concepts. Some of Blake’s favorite rhetorical techniques are personification and the reworking of Biblical symbolism and language. Blake frequently employs the familiar meters of ballads, nursery rhymes, and hymns, applying them to his own, often unorthodox conceptions. This combination of the traditional with the unfamiliar is consonant with Blake’s perpetual interest in reconsidering and reframing the assumptions of human thought and social behavior.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    Seen in this week's Private Eye:Tiger! Tiger! Burning bright In the middle of the night What on earth was going on? Perhaps we will never knowfrom Songs of Innocent Until Proven Guilty

  17. 4 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    I really enjoyed these, especially the way the poems pair together between the sections.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jason Gignac

    Wow. I know, I'm very purply in my prose when I talk about books, and I have a tendency to say everything is beautiful. I know this probably takes away from the impact of when I really find something life-changingly perfect. Do not let my larkety-la-ti-da writing style in reviews, however, stop you from putting down whatever you're reading, and immediately adding this precious book to the store of books you've read. I can honestly say that, if the other things William Blake wrote are as beautiful Wow. I know, I'm very purply in my prose when I talk about books, and I have a tendency to say everything is beautiful. I know this probably takes away from the impact of when I really find something life-changingly perfect. Do not let my larkety-la-ti-da writing style in reviews, however, stop you from putting down whatever you're reading, and immediately adding this precious book to the store of books you've read. I can honestly say that, if the other things William Blake wrote are as beautiful and honest as this book, that he will be the first male poet to sit in the circle of my heart with Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, E.B. Browning, et al. This book is an image of what poetry ought to be, this book is, when I wish that modern writing would remember what it means to be vulnerable, the book that I would beggingly throw before the writers of the world. I read this book in one day, it doesn't take very long. The book is divided into two sections, Songs of Innocence in the first half and of Experience in the second. The first half is poems that are the purest palest, most childlike of poems, pastoral in the dearest sense of the word - I have to tell you, honestly, if the book had only been this half, it would have been lovely, but imperfect. The second half was these songs that were... well, it was strange. Let me give you an example: THE GARDEN OF LOVE I went to the Garden of Love, And saw what I never had seen; A Chapel was built in the midst, Where I used to play on the green. And the gates of this Chapel were shut, And 'Thou shalt not' writ over the door; So I turned to the Garden of Love That so many sweet flowers bore. And I saw it was filled with graves, And tombstones where flowers should be; And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds, And binding with briars my joys and desires. But, then, the fascinating thing is, that most of the poems hearken back directly to the poems in the Songs of Innocence - sometimes they even have the same titles. Like this: THE DIVINE IMAGE (From Innocence) To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love, All pray in their distress, And to these virtues of delight Return their thankfulness. For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love, Is God our Father dear; And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love, Is man, His child and care. For Mercy has a human heart; Pity, a human face; And Love, the human form divine: And Peace the human dress. Then every man, of every clime, That prays in his distress, Prays to the human form divine: Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace. And all must love the human form, In heathen, Turk, or Jew. Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell, There God is dwelling too. A DIVINE IMAGE (Experience) Cruelty has a human heart, And Jealousy a human face; Terror the human form divine, And Secrecy the human dress. The human dress is forged iron, The human form a fiery forge, The human face a furnace sealed, The human heart its hungry gorge. The poems all interrelate, and they all tell this story, in a way that is at once extermely simple to comprehend and deep so far beyond my real understanding that I could study it for the rest of my life. The poems in this book - no the book itself, because the poems are so much more empty outside their context - have the sort of power that scripture should have. Reading these poems, I felt this sudden, overpowering sense of ... I don't even know what! This is, without a doubt, I can unabashedly say, the best book I've read in at least 10 years. And I'm only 29. The. Best. Book. HAnds down. I cannot write things that will make you understand how beautiful it is, all I can do is beat you over the head with it, so you go read it. Seriously. Even if you hate poetry, even if you've never read a book of poems in your life, even if you think William Blake is a nutjob, even if you've read it in college and hated it, go close your door for two hours, and read it. Then, come back, and tell me if I'm just crazy, or if this book was great. OK, shutting up now. Sorry. Original Review

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ Rabid Reads-no-more

    Maybe it's sacrilege, maybe it isn't, but I've never been a fan of Blake, artwork or poetry. *shrugs* It could be b/c I studied him alongside many whom I felt were vastly superior: Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, BURNS, SCOTT (in caps b/c LOVE my Irish poets), Hopkins came a bit later and is considered Victorian, but I don't care b/c LOVE him, too . . . "The just man justices . . ." Indeed, he does. So yeah . . . for me, Blake doesn't measure up.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joey

    Full of beautiful poems which intend to express human spirit restrained by conservative rules.Besides, I could feel the burning desires the poet wanted to express. Among the poems I appreciated : THE GARDEN OF LOVE I laid me down upon a bank, Where Love lay sleeping; I heard among the rushes dank Weeping, weeping. Then I went to the heath and the wild, To the thistles and thorns of the waste; And they told me how they were beguiled, Driven out, and compelled to the chaste. I went to the Garden of Love, And Full of beautiful poems which intend to express human spirit restrained by conservative rules.Besides, I could feel the burning desires the poet wanted to express. Among the poems I appreciated : THE GARDEN OF LOVE I laid me down upon a bank, Where Love lay sleeping; I heard among the rushes dank Weeping, weeping. Then I went to the heath and the wild, To the thistles and thorns of the waste; And they told me how they were beguiled, Driven out, and compelled to the chaste. I went to the Garden of Love, And saw what I never had seen; A Chapel was built in the midst, Where I used to play on the green. And the gates of this Chapel were shut And ‘‘Thou shalt not,’’ writ over the door; So I turned to the Garden of Love That so many sweet flowers bore. And I saw it was filled with graves, And tombstones where flowers should be; And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds, And binding with briars my joys and desires. and A Poison Tree I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow. And I watered it in fears Night and morning with my tears, And I sunned it with smiles And with soft deceitful wiles. And it grew both day and night, Till it bore an apple bright, And my foe beheld it shine, And he knew that it was mine - And into my garden stole When the night had veiled the pole; In the morning, glad, I see My foe outstretched beneath the tree. It is absolutely worth reading. ^^

  21. 4 out of 5

    Person113

    It is a mixture of the light of night and the dark of day (whatever I even mean by that...you know what, just go fucking read this it's happy, sad, dark, weird, beautiful, and great and will take you like two hours to read at MOST).

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ravi Prakash

    Blake has always been in one of my favorite English poets. As Thomas Carlyle said, "Poetry is musical thoughts" and Blake follow this tradition. His poetry has music that soothes the heart. . "The Song of Innocence and Experience" is a very small book and can be read in just one sitting but its poetic fragrance will remain with you for a long time.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael P.

    I don't get Blake's reputation. I grant the genius of “The Tyger,” but 90% of the rest of the poems in this book are doggerel. The other 10% are doggerel mixed with a good idea gone wrong or a nice line or image mixed with some very bad writing. It is hard for me to understand why anyone but a Christian fundamentalist with a taste for trite rhymes or an English lit scholar would bother. This raises the question of why Tyger is so good. My blind spot, or did Blake strike gold once with most of hi I don't get Blake's reputation. I grant the genius of “The Tyger,” but 90% of the rest of the poems in this book are doggerel. The other 10% are doggerel mixed with a good idea gone wrong or a nice line or image mixed with some very bad writing. It is hard for me to understand why anyone but a Christian fundamentalist with a taste for trite rhymes or an English lit scholar would bother. This raises the question of why Tyger is so good. My blind spot, or did Blake strike gold once with most of his reputation resting on his eccentrics as a person and as a moralist?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Draven

    William Blake, my favorite poet of all time. Always overshadowed by his fellow Romantic contemporaries, such as Wordsworth, much to my dismay and the detriment of poetry lovers everywhere. Songs of Innocence and Experience is a must-read period, regardless of genres. Anyone with an artistic soul will only benefit from its beauty and perfection. It is truly an enriching experience. The Chimney Sweeper is my personal favorite. I cry every time I read it without fail.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hilly

    William Blake is my favorite poet ever. And 'London' is the best of this collection, maybe my favorite poem of all time. This is one of the rare times in which I have to thank school.

  26. 4 out of 5

    maheen ~bookqueen~

    I. LOVED. IT. (no more is needed to be said)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Huda AbuKhoti

    Amazing read! You might feel a bit bored of the overly joyous innocence poems, but when you start reading the experience poems, the book becomes perfectly balanced My favorites were of course in the experience chapter: I loved the Clod and the Pebble It really was the ultimate poem of contrast. 'Love seeketh not itself to please, Nor for itself hath any care, But for another gives its ease, And builds a heaven in hell's despair.' So sung a little clod of clay, Trodden with the cattle's feet, But a pebb Amazing read! You might feel a bit bored of the overly joyous innocence poems, but when you start reading the experience poems, the book becomes perfectly balanced My favorites were of course in the experience chapter: I loved the Clod and the Pebble It really was the ultimate poem of contrast. 'Love seeketh not itself to please, Nor for itself hath any care, But for another gives its ease, And builds a heaven in hell's despair.' So sung a little clod of clay, Trodden with the cattle's feet, But a pebble of the brook Warbled out these metres meet: 'Love seeketh only Self to please, To bind another to its delight, Joys in another's loss of ease, And builds a hell in heaven's despite.' The Angel was one of my favorites as well. I dreamt a dream! What can it mean? And that I was a maiden Queen Guarded by an Angel mild: Witless woe was ne'er beguiled! And I wept both night and day, And he wiped my tears away; And I wept both day and night, And hid from him my heart's delight. So he took his wings, and fled; Then the morn blushed rosy red. I dried my tears, and armed my fears With ten thousand shields and spears. Soon my Angel came again; I was armed, he came in vain; For the time of youth was fled, And grey hairs were on my head.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matthew DeCostanza

    In turns heartfelt and alienating, warm and eerie. The duplicity with which this book is written is its most defining characteristic, making it a direct reflection of the world we live in. It's short, but encompassing; it's safe to say that the breadth of emotions I felt in the hour I spent reading this book were more vivid and diverse than the emotions I'm going to feel this coming week. My favorite William Blake anecdote says that when he was four years old he saw God peering into his bedroom wi In turns heartfelt and alienating, warm and eerie. The duplicity with which this book is written is its most defining characteristic, making it a direct reflection of the world we live in. It's short, but encompassing; it's safe to say that the breadth of emotions I felt in the hour I spent reading this book were more vivid and diverse than the emotions I'm going to feel this coming week. My favorite William Blake anecdote says that when he was four years old he saw God peering into his bedroom window. I love the image of a gigantic, creepy-yet-benevolent face peering into young Blake's room, and the child tucked comfortably into his bed and smiling back at the deity. The mixture of the unobtainable, the inaccessible and the eldritch with the compassionate and deeply personal is what I love about Blake. The eerie, dark sentimentality of his work is close to one's heart and also distant, and very frightening. I would compare him to Carroll and Lear, two men who blended the familiar and the alien to a similar effect. And while no visual art matches Blake's poetry as well as his own paintings, Louis Wain's eerie depictions of anthropomorphic cats (which simultaneously documented his mental deterioration) provide a close antithesis. One of the great works to be sure.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ayse Kelce

    When my mother died I was very young, And my father sold me while yet my tongue Could scarcely cry " 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!" So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep. There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved, so I said, "Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare, You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair." And so he was quiet, & that very night, As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight! That thousands of swee When my mother died I was very young, And my father sold me while yet my tongue Could scarcely cry " 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!" So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep. There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved, so I said, "Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare, You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair." And so he was quiet, & that very night, As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight! That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack, Were all of them locked up in coffins of black; And by came an Angel who had a bright key, And he opened the coffins & set them all free; Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run, And wash in a river and shine in the Sun. Then naked & white, all their bags left behind, They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind. And the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy, He'd have God for his father & never want joy. And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark And got with our bags & our brushes to work. Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm; So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm. -(The Chimney Sweeper)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Grace the Book Queen

    This is more of a 3.5 stars, very interesting to see how he could take a concept and take it two completely different directions.

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