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Imagery and Theme in William Blake’s Poems Research Paper

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Updated: Jan 15th, 2022

The poems of Blake emphasize the rebellious mood with a combination of religious and mystic frames. Social conflicts which have arisen in the era of industrial revolution in England confused the perception of Blake. Through the years the author got the new vision of his poems what was expressed by the difference between the imagery of Introductions and the Song’s of Nurse in the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. The author expresses his own perception of the world. The use of imagery helps Blake to represent the image of Nature as the main character of the Songs.

Imagery as a set of mental pictures or images is the main characteristic of poetry. Analyzing works of William Blake, we can find such characteristics as visual imagery, kinetic imagery, personification and metaphor.

Visual imagery is the most important characteristic of both works. Analyzing the Introductions we can notice that the Introduction of Experience contains more visual imagery than the Introduction of Innocence. In the Introduction of Innocence we find such examples as “Piping down the valleys wild, piping songs of pleasant glee, on a cloud I saw a child” (Blake, p. 81). Visual imagery of the Introduction of Experience: the Bard, that walked among the ancient trees; “fallen, fallen light renew” (Blake, p. 87). The last quatrain presents a consistent visual imagery:

Turn away no more;
Why wilt thou turn away?
The starry floor,
The watery shore,
Is given thee till the break of day. (Blake, p. 88)

In the Nurse’s Song of the Innocence we can find more visual imagery than in the Nurse’s Song of the Experience: ”in the sky the little birds fly”; “the hills are all coverd with sheep” (Blake, p. 87). An example of visual imagery of the Nurse’s Song in the Experience: “my face turns green and pale” (Blake, p. 90). We can make the conclusions that Blake pays more attention to the visual characteristics in the Song of Experience. I think that the use of visual imagery emphasizes the infinity of Blake’s imagination.

Word choice is very important to the author. He treats them as live beings which can coexist only in cooperation with other live creatures (Farrell, p. 77). “The Holy Word” of the Introduction of the Song of Experience is an example of the kinetic imagery. However, Blake doesn’t use this imagery often. He prefers to use personification to show the vitality of the lifeless things. In the poems we can find the following examples: “the days rise”, “the morning appears”, “sun is gone”, “Earth returns and arises”, “the morn rises”, “light fades away” (Blake, pp. 81-91). The use of personification helps to create the whole picture and to add the action.

All poems are full of metaphors: “the Holy Word walked among the trees, calling the lapsed soul and weeping in the evening dew”; “the Holy Word might control the starry pole” (Blake, p. 87). “The morning appears in the skies” (Blake, p. 86). The main metaphor of the Nurse’s Song is the image of Nurse as the metaphor of Nature which cares about her children – people. Metaphor is one of the most important elements of poetry which shows us the form and expression of Blake’s poems.

The origin of the Songs of Innocence is a pastoral which portrays the rural existence in a very simple way. That is why a satire inevitably comes to mind while reading the Songs and especially the Nurse’s Song (Bowra, p. 211). The origin of the Songs explains the use of imagery by the author. The Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience are the ode of Nature that cares about people and tries to show the way of morality. The use of imagery helps Blake to expose the theme of the Songs and to make poems rich and original. The fundamental importance of the imagery consists in the reflection of the specific Blake’s attitude to the theme of his Songs.

Works Cited

  1. Blake, William. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2. Ed. Abrams M. H. 6th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993. Print.
  2. Bowra, C. M. The Romantic Imagination. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1947. Print.
  3. Farrell, Deborah, and Carole Presser. The Herder Dictionary of Symbols. Wilmette, IL: Chiron Publications, 1978. Print.
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