Songs of Innocence and Experience

In William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and
Experience, the gentle lamb and the dire tiger
define childhood by setting a contrast between
the innocence of youth and the experience of
age. The Lamb is written with childish repetitions
and a selection of words which could satisfy any
audience under the age of five. Blake applies the
lamb in representation of youthful
immaculateness. The Tyger is hard-featured in
comparison to The Lamb, in respect to word
choice and representation. The Tyger is a poem
in which the author makes many inquiries, almost
chantlike in their reiterations. The question at
hand: could the same creator have made both the
tiger and the lamb? For William Blake, the
answer is a frightening one. The Romantic
Period’s affinity towards childhood is epitomized
in the poetry of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and

"Little Lamb who made thee/ Dost thou know
who made thee (Blake 1-2)." The Lamb’s
introductory lines set the style for what follows:
an innocent poem about a amiable lamb and it’s
creator. It is divided into two stanzas, the first
containing questions of whom it was who created
such a docile creature with "clothing of delight
(Blake 6)." There are images of the lamb
frolicking in divine meadows and babbling
brooks. The stanza closes with the same inquiry
which it began with. The second stanza begins
with the author claiming to know the lamb’s
creator, and he proclaims that he will tell him.
Blake then states that the lamb’s creator is none
different then the lamb itself. Jesus Christ is often
described as a lamb, and Blake uses lines such as
"he is meek and he is mild (Blake 15)" to
accomplish this. Blake then makes it clear that
the poem’s point of view is from that of a child,
when he says "I a child and thou a lamb (Blake
17)." The poem is one of a child’s curiosity,
untainted conception of creation, and love of all
things celestial.

The Lamb’s nearly polar opposite is The Tyger.
It’s the difference between a feel-good minister
waxing warm and fuzzy for Jesus, and a fiery
evangelist preaching a hellfire sermon. Instead of
the innocent lamb we now have the frightful
tiger- the emblem of nature red in tooth and
claw- that embodies experience. William Blake’s
words have turned from heavenly to hellish in the
transition from lamb to tiger. "Burnt the fire of
thine eye (Blake 6)," and "What the hand dare
seize the fire (Blake 7)?" are examples of how
somber and serrated his language is in this poem.
No longer is the author asking about origins, but
is now asking if he who made the innocuous
lamb was capable of making such a dreadful
beast. Experience asks questions unlike those of
innocence. Innocence is "why and how?" while
experience is "why and how do things go wrong,
and why me?" Innocence is ignorance, and
ignorance is, as they say, bliss. Innocence has not
yet experienced fiery tigers in its existence, but
when it does, it wants to know how lambs and
tigers are supposed to co-exist. The poem begins
with "Could frame thy fearful symmetry (Blake
4)?" and ends with "Dare frame thy fearful
symmetry (Blake 11)?" This is important because
when the author initially poses the question, he
wants to know who has the ability to make such
a creature. After more interrogation, the question
evolves to "who could create such a villain of its
potential wrath, and why?"

William Blake’s implied answer is "God." In the
poems, innocence is exhilaration and grace,
contrasting with experience which is ill-favored
and formidable. According to Blake, God created
all creatures, some in his image and others in his
antithesis. The Lamb is written in the frame of
mind of a Romantic, and The Tyger sets a
divergent Hadean image to make the former
more holy. The Lamb, from William Blake’s
Songs of Innocence and Experience is a befitting
representation of the purity of heart in childhood,
which was the Romantic period.

Blake, William. Songs of Innocence and
Experience, The Tyger and The Lamb. The
Longman Anthology of British Literature . Ed.
David Damrosch. New York: Addison Wesley
Longman, Inc. 1999. 112, 120.

Category: Book Reports