Songs of innocence and of experience

by William Blake

Other authorsGeoffrey Keynes
Paperback, 1992



Call number

HL 1921 S698



London: Oxford University Press, 1992.


Fiction. Poetry. HTML: Songs of Innocence and of Experience compiles two contrasting but directly related books of poetry by William Blake. Songs of Innocence honors and praises the natural world, the natural innocence of children and their close relationship to God. Songs of Experience contains much darker, disillusioned poems, which deal with serious, often political themes. It is believed that the disastrous end to the French Revolution produced this disillusionment in Blake. He does, however, maintain that true innocence is achieved only through experience..

User reviews

LibraryThing member MMWiseheart
The contrast between the songs of innocence and the songs of experience is amazing. Blake is at the same time vague and descriptive. The subtleties in his meter are fantastic! I love reading these and analyzing the intention and the meaning behind them. There are so many points of view one could
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LibraryThing member Esquilinho
Interesting Poems to Compare and Contrast: Interesting poems to compare and contrast - definitely a must for any literature student. Moreover, if you're interested in the different movements, as Blake was a key figure in bringing Romanticism into poetry.
LibraryThing member greeniezona
First of all, I would like to state in my defense that I picked up this slim volume days before I started freaking out about getting to 50 books by any means necessary. Ever since I catalogued my poetry shelf, I've been making an effort to get more of it read. Plus, in the story currently in my
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head, I'm a teacher, leading a unit on poetry. And apparently now I'm doing research for the stories I tell myself on long walks and as I fall asleep.

Yes? Well, okay. I don't know exactly what I was expecting when I first picked this up, but it certainly wasn't the poems I found in Songs of Innocence. This first volume is so excessively sweet, devoid of any hint of adult cynicism, that I felt a bit unmoored, and it actually took me days to work my way through them. It wasn't until I made it into Songs of Experience and heard the call and response between volumes that everything fell into place. Each side is illuminated and brought into relief by the other.

This volume contains what must surely be one of the most famous poems in the English language -- "The Tyger," which somehow I think I had never previously read in its entirety, though certainly I have seen its opening lines quoted often enough. Myself, I prefer "the Little Vagabond."

Worth its reputation after all, I'd have to say.
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LibraryThing member Fledgist
Blake's collection of ballad-like poems. Deceptively simple and direct, but often more complex and difficult than they seem.
LibraryThing member Carolfoasia
All I have to say, WOW! I wished I could have read these years ago. This was my experience as I read too:

It was so weird because as I read Innocence, I sat by my bedroom window on this second day of Spring and felt the sunshine and the grandkids of our neighbors out in the yard to play. Then, when
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I got to the reality of Experience the sky grew dark and rain began to pour. The grandkids, no doubt, scampered inside, and the joyful sounds of Innocence disappeared!
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LibraryThing member WFB
I started reading this from the age of twelve. Still love it, and find it deeply meaningful.
LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Songs of Innocence and Experience are William Blake's two most famous books. The best way to read them is as the artist intended, with a facsimile of the original artwork/poems. They are admittedly a little strange and opaque at first but its possible to pry out some double meanings to discover the
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"contrary states of the human soul," and if not that, at least enjoy some mirth and joy in lightness of being.
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LibraryThing member kathleen586
Blake wrote some good poems, but I didn't particularly like most of them.
LibraryThing member ablueidol
One of the few poets that have stayed and grown with me. And the artwork!
LibraryThing member leslie.98
I like Blake´s poetry but not his content. The structure, the rhythm and rhyme, the length of the poems I enjoyed; the subject matter, especially in the Songs of Innocence was too much 'little lamb of God' for my tastes.

That said, this book is very short and does contain some treasures - most
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notably The Tiger - so I would recommend it to anyone who, like myself, is trying to acquire some knowledge of poetry.
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LibraryThing member AntT
Despite their age, these poems really sing to me: "Get with child a mandrake root...."
LibraryThing member heidip
Songs of Innocence and of Experience remains a favorite of mine. The concept is brilliant-- illustrated poetry. Blake paints a beautiful picture with the poem woven into it. The words are so small I'm not sure how he actually got them on there. I told my daughter she should try to do a painting
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"Blake-style" with a poem woven into the picture.

Some of my favorite Blake poems are found in this collection: "The Lamb" and "The Tiger." But I read some new ones that I also really enjoyed. The first half of the book contains the Songs of Innocence and the poems reflect that theme with sweet poems of God and children and Shepherds, etc. Many of these poems in the Songs of Innocence seem like lullabies.

The second half contains the Songs of Experience, with more emphasis on pain, poverty, and sin. The cover picture for Songs of Experience is a picture of someone dead on their bed. It sets the tone for the whole last part. Is the first part like the Garden of Eden—Innocence, and Experience--post Garden? The title is Songs of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. So is that contrasting good and evil? Here are some examples of his criticism.

Holy Thursday was pointed, “Is this a holy thing to see,/In a rich and fruitful land,/Babes reduced to misery,/ Fed with cold and usurious hand?” This was critical of children in poverty.

The poem Garden of Love, I found very critical of the church. The garden had a church built there and it was now filled with tombstones instead of flowers; and priests in black robes were binding with briars. Where he used to play was no longer a garden of love!

London was very critical of the city. Phrases like “Harlot’s curse” “blood down palace walls” “marriage hearse” “Infants cry” etc. really paints a bleak picture of the city.
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LibraryThing member AmiloFinn
My copy of William Blake's 'Songs of Innocence and of Experience' features Blake's original plates on one page and his poems typed out on the other. The pictures are strange, ornate, exquisite and the poems are poignant and beautiful, about children and nature, the Chimney Sweeper and the Echoing
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Green. More famous poems appear in the Songs of Experience, The Sick Rose and the Tyger. The work is visionary and shows sensitivity, depth and a great social conscience.
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LibraryThing member PollyMoore3
Visionary and prophet; he saw angels in trees, but wisely acknowledged they were in his own head. I remember at choir practice a few years ago, a young man rubbishing the words of “Jerusalem”: “And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountains green? Obviously not!” Ah, but
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there is poetic truth, the mythos, and logical everyday truth, the logos. Blake is referring to an old legend, and inviting us to ponder how we might behave if this were true. But you could argue for ever with these commonsensical folk who call a spade a spade and see no further than the end of their own noses. What can you do with a guy who looks at his mobile phone all through the intercessions…. Favourites are: “Night”, “Eternity”, and “Auguries of Innocence”. We still need Blake to remind us of how we should treat creation.
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LibraryThing member comfypants
Illustrated poetry, mostly on religious topics.

1.5/4 (Meh).

"Songs of Innocence" is trite garbage about how Jesus loves you. "Experience" has a lot more craft, but still basically just pushes immature philosophy. And I really do not understand what people see in the art. Is it just that it was
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expensive to reproduce (and therefor fancy) for a couple centuries?
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LibraryThing member AntT
Despite their age, these poems really sing to me: "Get with child a mandrake root...."
LibraryThing member JoyE
This is a beautiful edition of Blake's poems. I've used this a lot in school.
LibraryThing member mykl-s
Beautiful language, not always about beautiful experiences.


Original publication date

1789 (Songs of Innocence)
1794 (Songs of Innocence and of Experience)


0192810898 / 9780192810892
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