Essay Blake Pastoral Innocence

Submitted By IzzieMay
Words: 1490
Pages: 6

In what ways does Blake explore the idea of pastoral innocence?
William Blake’s representation of pastoral innocence in his ‘Songs of Innocence’ intertwine the voice of children and nature. He described the “little ones leaped and shouted and laughed”, showing children as the essence of innocence, and the fact that “all the hills echoed” in ‘Nurse’s Song’, shows how the pastoral life, symbolic of a simplistic and unsophisticated life of the rustics in Blake’s songs, links nature to a child’s happiness, and therefore reflects pastoral innocence, which is also portrayed in ‘The Echoing Green’ and ‘Introduction’.
In Blake’s song, ‘Nurse’s Song’, the word song is even in the title, and therefore immediately suggests the cheerfulness of the nurse, the guardian of the children. Within the first stanza, children become the central motif of Blake’s song, with the “voice of the children” is heard, and “everything else is still”. This suggests Blake immediately links innocence with the children, as innocence here is perhaps the relaxed and carefree nature that intertwines the children and the pastoral. In this poem, the nurse calls her children back into the house, for “the sun is gone down”, but the children protest for play, for which the nurse agrees to let them play “until the light fades away”, suggesting her trust in nature to protect her children. Blake uses nature to reflect the essence of innocence within the children. The children protest that “in the sky the little birds fly/And the hills are all covered with sheep”, therefore as nature hasn’t gone to bed yet, neither will they. This suggests that children are in sync with the natural cycle of nature; they sleep and wake as nature does. Furthermore, the nurse placing her trust in nature and listening to the “voice of the children”, reflects Rosseau’s views on children, which Blake followed. Rosseau wanted parents to leave a child to learn from experience, as nature protects. Blake interprets this view into his nurse, as she leaves them to “play till the light fades away, putting her trust into nature to protect her children. Structurally, the title identifies this poem as a song, which is reflected throughout the stanzas by the monosyllabic endings and beginnings. The use of the word ‘song’ suggests loud noise-making; words such as “laughing”, “voice” and “shouted” reflects this, however, the use of the word “still”, a word absent of sound, could perhaps add a sinister quality to nature, and that the silence of the night without a child’s laughter or the natures light, erases such innocence. Furthermore, the use of the word “and” is very prominent within the poem, and whilst seemingly unimportant, adds to the childish vocabulary used by Blake. The sheep on the hills and the birds in the sky are used as perhaps friends and protectors of the children by Blake, yet perhaps this is an idealised view of the innocence, as enhanced by the pastoral setting, because the child’s innocence during the day is not open to exploitation, as the “hills echoed” the sound of the children’s laughter, as a celebration of innocence. However, Blake contrasts light and dark against each other, and adds this to the nurses words of caution that the children should come home as “the sun is gone down/And the dews of the night arise”. This suggests a threatening element to the approaching darkness, which could perhaps reflect that whilst a child’s innocence within the pastoral is safe within the light, it could easily be swallowed by darkness.
Similarly, Blake explores pastoral innocence within ‘The Echoing Green’ even within the title. Green connotates an abundance, an everlasting and infinite cycle, suggesting that innocence is repeated within generations, which is reflected in the poem. In this poem, the narrator describes the sun rising, which “makes happy the skies” with “merry bells” and singing birds reflecting the happy and idyllic nature of the pastoral. On the echoing green sits “old John…