7/03/2019

Blake's use of imagery in "songs of Innocence" and "Songs of Experience"


"An increasing number of scholars in English Romanticism find that Blake, simply because of the concentration and accuracy of his imagery, enlightens their understanding of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats in spite of his lack of influence in his own time." -Northrop Frye.

We may list some principal symbols of Blake which would help us understand his imagery and his 'double-vision'.

1. Innocence symbols (pre-sexual and a moral as well as Christian): children, sheep, wild birds, wild flowers, green fields, dawn, dew, spring, and associated images e.g.
(exempli gratia= for example.) Shepherds valleys, hills etc.

2. Energy symbols (creative, heroic, unrestrained as well as revolutionary righteously destructive): lions, tigers, wolves, lamb, eagles, noon, summer, sun, fires, frogs, swords, spears,
chariots.

3. Sexual symbols (from uninhabited ecstasy to selfish power over the beloved and jealousy): dreams, branches of tress, rose, gold, silver, moonlight, associated images e.g. nets, cages, fairies, bows and arrows.

4. Corruption symbols (hypocrisy, secrecy as well as town influences including abstract reasoning): curtains, cities, houses, snakes, evening, silence, disease.

5. Oppression symbols (personal, parental, religious, political): fathers, priests, kings, mills, forests, mountains, seas, caves, clouds, thunder, frost, night, stars, winter, stone, iron.

Blake used those symbolic images for his own specific meanings. In his longer poems Tiger is an embodiment of evil. Lamb and child
live in the vision of eternity, the world of Jesus, the Imagination; but the Tiger roams 'the forests of the night,' removed from the light of the spiritual sun. Forests, in Blake's symbolic landscape, represent creation and are always evil: Everywhere we find the same image combined-darkness, forests, beasts of prey and with forests we find associated images of snake and fire.

The essence of Blake's vision is normally pastoral with a Christian emphasis. The imagery of Pastoralism, we see, includes
animals; but animals are wild as well as mild and the idyllic scenes of
Innocence suggest the latter. The Christian concern has its other side
too, inevitably suggesting morality and the melodrama of death. Blake's apocalyptic imagery starts from here. The ease with which Blake stimulated the inanimate objects and mixed with the animate resulted in some of his happiest pictorial effects; but it was also the particular ingredient in his talent that passed most rapidly out of his control and which then resulted in cloudy rhetoric. But the imagery of pastoral visions was without such dangers for Blake. The purity and felicity of his pastoral narration is effectively brought out in his "Songs of Experience." But when he passes to Experience this beauty is not completely eroded; it only collaborates beautifully with intellect:

"In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

Blake's imagery is meant to be in touch with the experience of common humanity and due to this very fact his images are congruous and appropriate.

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