The Blake slideshow I have created for you shows several of these plates from one of Blake’s most famous collections of poems, Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Songs of Innocence was first published by itself in 1789. Songs of Experience has only been published in conjunction with Songs of Innocence, first in 1794.
As implied by the titles (as well as Blake’s subtitle: “shewing the two contrary states of the human soul”) the poems from each half of this collection are meant to be juxtaposed. Some of the plates and poems below demonstrate the parallels between the Innocence and Experience poems.
- First, compare the title page of Innocence (slide 2) to the title page of Experience (slide 10). Note that in the former, the image shows a family centered around a mother with a newborn. In the latter, the image shows mourners over a deathbed. This distinction should give a good impression of the differing moods between the two halves of Blake’s work.
- The introduction to each section should reinforce this distinction.
- The classic comparison involves the meekness of “The Lamb” (slide 8) and the violent imagery of “The Tyger” (slide 13).
- Compare the two poems entitled “Holy Thursday” (slides 7 and 17).
- Compare the two poems entitled “The Chimney sweeper” (slides 9 and 16).
- Compare “Infant Joy” (slide 6) to “The Sick Rose” (slide 15). Note the similarity of the flower image, but the differences as well. The “Infant Joy” flower is bright, healthy, and rises to the top of the plate. The flower in “The Sick Rose” looks dim and faded, and it droops to the bottom of the plate.
- Compare “ London” (Slide 14) to Wordsworth’s poem “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1802” (E78). Blake’s portrayal of the city mirrors the attitude that permeates Songs of Experience.
- The dream-like pastoral imagery of “The Ecchoing Green” (slides 4 & 5) is an excellent microcosm for Songs of Innocence, the cynicism of “The Clod and the Pebble” (Slide 18) acts the same way for Songs of Experience.