27 March 2015
Innocence and Experience Romanticism is a cultural movement that began in the eighteenth century in Europe. This movement was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, which occurred during the same era. William Blake, the author of Songs of Innocence and of Experience, wrote a collection of poems demonstrating certain contrasts of life. Many of his poems have aspects of innocence, one of which is “The Lamb.” On the contrary, “The Tyger,” focuses on experience with the realities of life. In these two opposing poems, Blake uses a common theme of religion and the use of the lamb as a symbol, since God created both the Lamb, resembling the good of the world, and the Tyger, signifying the evil. Blake’s most famous work, “The Lamb,” is a poem based on innocence, joy and optimism, but also on being naïve. The poem begins with the speaker asking the lamb, “Little Lamb who made thee” (line 1). The speaker comes off as genuinely curious, as he would like to know where they come from. It seems as if the speaker is testing the Lamb, by repeating his question once again, “Does thou know who made thee” (line 2). As the poem progresses, the child asks the Lamb about its appetites and desires, and who created them. The speaker wants to know who “Gave thee clothing of delight. Softest clothing wooly bright; Gave thee such a tender voice” (lines 5-7). The child then asks the Lamb again, “who made thee” and “does thou know who made thee?” In the second stanza, the Lamb attempts to answer the speakers question by saying that the Lamb was made by one who “For he calls himself a Lamb” (line 14). “The Lamb” ends with the speaker, who we now know is a child, bestowing a blessing on the Lamb. There are several common ideas and images in “The Lamb.” Generally, lambs represent innocence. The Lamb itself is a symbol for Jesus Christ, “He is meek, and He is mild” (line 15). Jesus has been called “meek” and “mild” for the way he submitted to God’s will and for his gentle treatment of sinning humans. Lambs are connected to the theme of childhood that runs throughout the The Songs of Innocence. Additionally, there is a great deal of pastoral imagery in “The Lamb.” The word pastoral refers to the lives of shepherds who live in the countryside. Also, the Lamb is a classic symbol of pastoral life. This is because, before farmers fenced in their livestock, they would hire shepherds to guide their herds from field to field to eat grass. It is possible that the speaker, a child, is a young shepherd. Moreover, the word “vales” is personified, “Making all the vales rejoice,” (line 8) as the joyful sound of the Lamb.
Additionally, there are several Romantic themes apparent in “The Lamb,” such as innocence, the natural world, and youthfulness. Innocence is apparent when the child asks questions regarding how the Lamb came to life. When children begin to ask questions regarding creation, it’s a sign of their growing experience and exposure. Throughout “The Lamb,” Blake personifies nature, therefore using a theme of the natural world. For instance, the Lamb has a “tender voice” like a singer, and the echoing valleys are compared to a choir expressing its happiness. Youthfulness is shown by the speaker himself. The child’s curiosity is apparent throughout the entire poem, by questioning who created them. In Christian belief, even adults are “children” of God, as stated, “I a child and thou a lamb, We are called by his name” (lines 17-18).
Another one of Blake’s popular poems, “The Tyger,” is based on experience and wisdom, as well as, cynicism. The poem is addressed to the Tyger. There is a choppy, chant-like mood to the poem as a whole, and it contributes to its mysteriousness. The metaphor “Tyger, Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night” (lines 1-2) describes a kind of power that the Tyger has. Sight and creation are symbolized, “What immortal hand or eye” (line 3) and therefore is a reference