Songs of Innocence and of Experience
This collection of poems by famous English Romantic poet William Blake comprises two volumes in one. Self-published by Blake, the first collection entitled "Songs of Innocence", first appeared in 1789. This volume focuses on the pastoral and innocent perfection of childhood. The tone is beautiful and often delicately romantic. However there is also a dark side to the naivety of childhood. Blake explores the vulnerability of the poor and the young to the exploitation of the Industrial Age in the poems "The Chimney Sweeper" and "The Little Black Boy." Blake expanded on this dark theme five years later when he added a second volume of poems and published the entire work in 1794 as "Songs of Innocence and of Experience," with the subtitle "Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul." The first state of being is that of the innocent and pure child. The second state is that of experience when one comes to know the true nature of human society. In this second state, one learns fear and inhibitions, changes forced by religion, the desires of the ruling class, and the pressures of society. It was Blake's hope that readers would reject the repressive institutions of his contemporary world and instead return to a simpler more pastoral way of living, somewhere in between innocence and experience.
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