Friday, May 4, 2012

An Analysis of Poems by William Blake

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William Blake was born on November 8th in the year 1757; he became one of England’s greatest poets. He wrote many famous poems, including “Tyger” and “Jerusalem”. Many poems are categorized into either Songs of innocence or Songs of experience. This is a little volume of illuminated pages. Blake believed the innocence of childhood is contrasted with the experience and corruption of the adult world. He married Catherine Boucher in 1778 and enjoyed a happy marriage. He was a poet of imagination and rebelled against the church. Blake died in 1787.

Songs of Innocence and Experience are a series of poems on how we see the world at different stages of our lives. They are, as Blake says himself, Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. Both collections sometimes share the same name for poems, such as The Chimney Sweeper, but one glance at these two poems reveals the contrast between the small boy from Songs of Innocence and the more worldly wise soul in Songs of Experience. His poems show his beliefs on the general world in which we live, and how we see things differently when we are first in a state of innocence and when we reach maturity. Blake wished to show his readers the contrast between the state of Innocence (childhood, idealism, youthful joy) he saw the lamb as innocent and that of Experience (disillusionment, social criticism, world weariness, and violence). Of which he described as the tiger. He also believed that no creation is “better” than the other and many of his poems stress this.

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William Blake’s, The Chimney Sweeper, focuses on the thoughts and feelings of a young orphan having to deal with the pressures of losing their parents and being forced to be a chimney sweeper in order to live. The poem is written in very simple wordings and as well in simple stanzas. This structure helps the reader see that the poem is about a young child who speaks in a very simple language. An example is “‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! here the young child is calling for trade, but cannot sound the word sweep, as he is so young. “weep” also empathizes the boys sadness.

In the first line Blake uses the word “thing” to represent a child sweeper, it is not a child but a thing, it is worthless. He uses good contrast, black against white.

The poem is written using two rhyming couplets in the first stanza and then in the remaining stanzas there are alternating rhyming lines.

The poem is written as though it is coming right out of the child’s thoughts. Many of the thoughts are very naive, which helps to stress how young this child is. An example of this would be, “where are thy father and mother? Say?”, “They are both gone up to church to pray,” The child at this point was so young when his parents died that all he remembers is going to a church and never seeing them again.

The basic tone of the poem is sad, angry, and confused. These tones all focus on the feelings of this young boy and the confusion he feels about how he’s life has turned upside down. Since it was the cause of his parent’s death that turned he’s life in another direction he asks him self the question of how could they both leave him and allow his life to get like this. The boy continuously blames the fact, that since he was so happy before his parents died, he was blinded with how life can really be. This is shown in the following

"Because I was happy upon the heath,
And smil’d among the winter’s snow;
They clothed me in the clothes of death;
And taught me to sing in notes of woe."

The image of snow is used in the above stanza. The boy states that even in the snow he was happy before his parents died, snow symbolizing cold and bitterness. The death of his parents is then represented by the image of clothes of death, because once those clothes of death were worn, the boy was no longer happy and he entered a whole new world that was unknown to him before, a world that “…taught me to sing the notes of woe”

The poem ends with the child’s negative views towards death
“And are gone to praise God and his priest and king, Who make up a heaven of our misery”

These last two lines stress how upset the child is. The last line especially, “Who make up a heaven of our misery”, is stating that when the parents went to heaven it caused the young child misery, turning his life around to the worst case scenario. The three stanzas are all different, in the first stanza black uses words such as “happy”, “dance”, and “sing” but on the rd stanza he ends on the word “misery”, this may show how the child felt. He was happy at first but now suffers misery because of experience.

The poem, “The Tyger” is also from Songs of experience. It has many questions. Blake deliberately miss spelt tiger as “Tyger”. He does this to wipe any vision you have of the tiger and creates a new image the way he sees it. By re-naming the tiger, Tyger, its almost as though he has created a creature of he’s own. In the first line he uses alliteration to empathize “Burning bright”. He uses the word “immortal” this word gives the impression that the tiger will never die. When Blake uses the fearful he is referring to the creator. This could be Satan or god. He also uses the word fearful” to make us question who or what could have created the Tyger. Fire is a constant recurring theme In this poem. The fire could represent the creator or maybe it occurs so often because fire is seen as harmful and it is feared by many, like the Tyger.

In lines 5-6, “In what distant deeps or skies Burned the fire of thine eyes?” Here he asks where did you come from? Heaven or Hell? Back to the creator he asks, “ On what wings dare he aspire?” Blake may see the creator to have wings, because he was visited with visions of angels from time to time which may have led him to see the creator also with wings. Blake explains in the last two lines of the rd stanza that from the moment the heart begins to beat, you are alive. He uses repetition in the last line. “what dread hand? And what dread feet?” this makes the person asking questions sound confused it also gives the impression that there are many questions to ask and that the speaker is eager for them to be answered. In the firth stanza he asks many questions. “In what furnace was thy brain?” he wonders again about the creator and who made the tigers brain.

The fifth verse, “ Did he smile his works to see?”, Blake asks whether the creator was happy with his finished work. “Did he who make the lamb make thee?.” Could someone make such an innocent creature make a creature as deadly as the Tyger also? To end the poem Blake repeats the first verse and ends with a question that remains to be answered.

After analyzing a selection of poems by William Blake, “The Chimney Sweeper” is my favorite. Songs of innocence concern the innocence of childhood and songs of experience concerns the experience of adulthood. Blake has many themes in his poems such as; sex, love, church, freedom, captivity, nature, state and weakness. I have enjoyed reading and studying he’s poetry as they all have deeper meanings the more you look into them.

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