William Blake's treatment to childhood in his "Songs of Innocence"

The Songs of Innocence largely deals with a child's world. It is a world of simplicity, of innocence, of undisturbed joy, of purity and virtue unclouded by the vices. It is a state of innocence in which man is very close to God. Though the world of a child is a world of happiness, fear is not totally absent from this world. But when danger threatens, a father figure comes to save the child.

"Introduction of Songs of Innocence"     
The keynote of the world of the child is struck in the Introduction to the Songs of Innocence. Blake here represents himself as a shepherd playing on his flute. While wandering through the valleys piping songs of joy on his pipe, the he saw a mystic child on a cloud. The child may represent Jesus Christ who speaks from a cloud, that is, from heaven. At first the child bids the poet to pipe a
ong on his pipe about a lamb which symbolises innocence and Christ. Thus the child bids the poet to pipe a song about Christ or about innocence of the child. When the poet piped a song about a Lamb, the child wept out of excessive joy. Then the mystic child bids the poet to stop piping and to sing the song of joy vocally. Again, when the poet sings the child wept out of excessive joy. Finally the child bids the poet to write down his songs of joy in a book so that all may read and every child may get joy to hear them. Thus the poem
shows how ideas came to Blake in the form of clearly visualised encounters with angels or other symbolic characters.

"The Lamb"
In The Lamb Blake propounds the idea of innocence in the simplest way and extends the world of innocence even to the animals that are insignificant and base in the human eye. In the poem the poet visualizes the divine qualities of the child and the lamb and unifies them with Jesus Christ. It is innocence which connects these three figures. Christ is called a lamb because of his meekness and mildness. He was also a child when he first appeared on this earth as the Son of God. The harmlessness of the lamb and the purity of the heart of a child are the manifestation of Christ's innocence. Thus the gentleness, meekness and mildness are the qualities of both the
child, the lamb and Christ which link them together.

"Holy Thursday"
However, cruelty, injustice, ugliness and suffering are not totally absent from the Songs of Innocence. In Holy Thursday we find the innocent children of the charity schools going to St. Paul's Cathedral in lines of two wearing dresses of red, blue and green colours. They were going there being led by the church officials who had white wands (rods) in their hands to make the children obey them. The rod is an oppressor, a nightmare to the innocent children.

"The Chimney Sweeper"  
The Chimney Sweeper throws light on the miserable life of young children who are subject to inhuman treatment in the society. The poem deals with the wretched conditions of the children employed as chimney sweepers by factories and industries. They were required to work hard. They were sent up a chimney to sweep away of the chimney. They were to go into confined dark curves where they wore covered with soot and sometimes they got stuck and suffocated. That is why Tom, one of the chimney sweepers, at one night dreamed that thousands of chimney sweepers were locked up in black coffins. He also dreamed of an Angel who descends to earth with a bright key and opens the coffins to set them all free. When the Angel freed them, the children ran out in the open, under the sun, in green fields. They all were jolly and cheerful and enjoyed life and work. Thus the
children's unfulfilled desires of real life are fulfilled in dreams.

Thus the world of innocence, for most part, is that of joy, gentleness and purity. But the world of Experience is round the corner and sure to overtake innocence. It is only after going through experience that a higher innocence can be achieved.

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