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How does Blake use form, structure and language for effect in the Songs of Innocence?

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    Blake uses many devices in “Songs of Innocence” to have a profound effect on the reader.

    Perhaps the most obvious of these is the sybolism used in the poems is the symbol of children to represent the pure and uncorrupted in society. Blake portrays an image of innocence and vulnerablitlity in the poems by using several devices such as questions and answers and chil-like style to create a naive mood. ‘Little lamb who made thee, Dost though know who made thee..

    . Little Lamb i’ll tell thee, Little Lamb, i’ll tell thee’.The general form used is simple, using structures such as regular rhyme and rhythm to convey ideas about innocence and give a simple and innocent quality to the poems. The predictability and simpleness of the style is intentionally child-like to emphasise this message.

    The regular rhythm emphasises the hymn-like quality of the poems when combined with the spiritual matter in the poems, and make them seem joyful and youthful. The use of exclamatives, ‘O! ‘, ‘Sound the Flute! ‘ also give a child-like quality to the poems but can also make them seem quite remorseful. This is one of the main effects of the poems.The children are innocent but also unaware and disillusioned which gives a strong effect of the corruption that Blake expresses.

    The use of animals, especially when aspects of nature such as the animals talk, in “Night” and “A Dream” and a tree in “The Blossom”, make the poems seem very mystical and fantastical. This emphasises once again, the child-like theme in the poems. Many of the poems emphasise the effect of being child-like again by using pastoral and natural themes to give an idealistic view of the world. The use of symbols such as the lamb and birds expresses innocence, joyfulness and youthfulness in the poems.

    Blake often adopts the persona of a child to emphasise this once again and to create a stronger emotional reaction from the reader. The use of nursery-rhyme type form and repetition, ‘Merry Merry Sparrow’, Pretty Pretty Robin’, ‘Merrily Merrily Merilly’, gives this effect again and the use of questions followed a simple answer gives the effect of a child’s naivity and innocence. The Introduction to “Songs of Innocence” sets the scence for the style of poetry, using simple diction and a lyrical quality in the poem. Positive adjectives used, such as ‘happy’, ‘merry’ and ‘pleasant’, are words frequently repeated in many of the poems.

    They set the scence for the idyll of perity that is followed through the poems, using two-syllabled, positive, joyful words to emphasise the theme of childhood and innocence. Blake reitterates the idealistic effect in many of the poems, using vivid visual imagery such as ‘green woods’, ‘dimpling stream’, ‘happy groves’, ‘green fields’ and ‘the sun descending in the west’ to portray an perfection in nature. This reflects the theme of innocence in the poems, making them seem more childlike and emphasising the naive and unrealistically optimistic view of the children in the poems.Words such as, “tender,” “meek,” and “woolly” when used to describe the Lamb emphasize the Lamb’s gentle nature and comforts and reassures the reader.

    The use of parents, parent hood and images of this,’Near my bosom’, ‘Mothers smiles’, is evident in many of the poems and emphasises the comforting and reassuring aspect of the poems. Blake expresses the protection of the innocent as an ideal that should be followed and the selfless love of parents in the poems becomes used throughout.The theme of parenthood and protection is mirrored in the reasurring tone of the poems, ‘So if all do their duty, they neeed not fear harm. Words such ‘made’ and ‘gave’ show a very parental theme in the poems and calm and soothe the reader.

    Blake often uses very soft-consonated words in many of the poems to reitterate this effect. The poems in songs of innocence in some ways juxtapose two main themes of thought. The innocent, naive and pastoral elememts of the poems, represented by the children is contrasted by the injustices, repression and corruption of reality. The children’s naive optimism makes the poems seem much more grim and bleak.

    The innocence portrayed hides a deeper comment about the profound and desperate truth of the world and the children’s helplessness when faced with it. Many of the poems are very simple in their message but in his poems such as “The Chimney Sweeper” and “The Little Black Boy”, a very political theme is apparant and the pedagogical tone emphasises Blake’s message. The symbolism of black/white, pure/corrupted to express the injustices of society. The symbolism of soot, ‘spoiling’ the ‘white hair’ of the boy expresses Blake’s concern about the repression of the young that is expressed in many of the opther poems.

    Similarly in “The Little Black Boy”, ‘I am Black, but O! my soul is white’ and ‘bereav’d of light’ symbolise the purity and innocence of the young and uncorrupted against the sinnister and corrupted world. In “The Chimney Sweeper”, his repetition of ‘weep’ emphasises the sorrow and compassion that Blake feels for the injustice. Both of these poems mirror symbolism found in the other as well as in the rest of the poems. Both use clouds as symbols of society’s blind and unforgiving ways that stop the light of virtuousness and beauty from shining through.

    Both include images of lambs, a common theme throughout the poems to symbolise both God or Jesus and the innocence and purity in the world. Blake also conveys a strong theme of God throughout all of the poems, which is evident in the many references to Him ‘he who smiles on all’, ‘thy maker’, ‘our fathers knee’. In “The Little Black Boy” a very christian view is expressed in the phrase ‘Ill shade him from the heat till he can bear’, suggesting that his suffering better prepares him for heaven. Both of these poems follow a similar pattern to other poems in the collection, becoming more optimistic towards the end.

    However, both give the effect of the situation being unresolved and hopeless. The poems are optimistic but show that the ultimate relief from these injustices can only come in death. These poems are two of the more complicated in Songs of Innocence. Blake uses metaphors such as ‘coffins of black’ to give a harsh effect of the chimney sweepers’ situation.

    The fact that both the chimney sweeoer, and the little black boy are punished, one because he was born black and one because he was born poor emphasises Blakes message once again about the injustices, repression and corruption of the vulnerable young.

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    How does Blake use form, structure and language for effect in the Songs of Innocence?. (2017, Dec 19). Retrieved from

    Frequently Asked Questions

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    How does Blake use language?
    Blake uses repetition to convey the speaker's belief that everything is a possession of the ruling system and that no-one is free. The language itself experiences the same restriction. Blake's thudding repetition reflects the suffocating atmosphere of the city. Even 'mark' has to be both verb and noun.
    How does Blake use language in London?
    “The structure of London is quite rhythmic – each stanza is a quatrain using iambic tetrameteriambic tetrameterIambic tetrameter is a meter in poetry. It refers to a line consisting of four iambic feet. The word "tetrameter" simply means that there are four feet in the line; iambic tetrameter is a line comprising four iambs. › wiki › Iambic_tetrameterIambic tetrameter - Wikipedia. Blake uses this to suggest that the people of London are regimented and controlled. Blake emphasises this when he refers to 'the charter'd streets' which suggest that every movement of the people is mapped out.
    How does William Blake define innocence?
    Through his language, Blake defines innocence as a state of naivety and ignorance. Furthermore, he uses his language to describe experience. His language choices create an image of experience as superiority and strength.
    What are the structure and poetic devices used in the poem London?
    Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABAB rhyme scheme and this pattern continuous till the end. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “cry/sigh”, “hear/tear” and “flow/woe.”

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