Songs of Innocence and Experience

After reading “The Chimney Sweeper,” it is clear that a major theme behind William Blake’s poetry is social criticism. Blake is resting the blame for these children being exploited first and foremost on the church and then the state, which we established since Henry VIII is somewhat one and the same entity. Students in the past have often included the boy’s father as one of the culprits for having sold the narrator into child labor after the narrator’s mother died. The irony of the final line ,”So if all do their duty, they need no fear harm,” is that it would be something an adult would tell to a child in a promise of eternal life in the afterlife. It is a way of exploiting the children innocence and naivete for profit. The children should most definitely fear harm as we see in the poem that all of Tom Darce’s friends, “Dick, Joe, Ned and Jack” are dead – “Were all of them locked up in coffins of black”. He continues this theme of social criticism in today’s readings, “The Lamb” and “The Tyger,” from his book Songs of Innocence and Experience

ANSWER QUESTION: What becomes of the children exploited who don’t die?

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(Note: There is a pretty significant hint in the title of the book, Songs of Innocence and Experience, to help you understand Blake’s intention with these two poems).

1. Read “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” by William Blake posted below.

ANSWER THIS QUESTION :
How do these eternally linked poems subtly capture the essence of social criticism? Why does “The Lamb” read like a nursery rhyme, whereas, “The Tyger”, in contrast, read like a warning?

From the book Songs of Innocence and of Experience

The Lamb
BY WILLIAM BLAKE
Little Lamb who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

The Tyger
BY WILLIAM BLAKE
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? For more information on Songs of Innocence and Experience see this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Songs_of_Innocence_and_of_Experience

Songs of Innocence and Experience

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