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

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Blake employs various literary devices in “Songs of Innocence” in order to deeply impact the reader.

The symbolism used in the poems is most evident in the representation of children as a symbol for purity and uncorruptedness in society. Blake employs various devices, such as questions and answers and a childlike style, to create an atmosphere of innocence and vulnerability in the poems. For instance, in the lines “Little lamb who made thee, Dost though know who made thee…”, the image of a lamb is used to evoke a sense of naivety.

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The poem “Little Lamb i’ll tell thee, Little Lamb, i’ll tell thee'” follows a simple and innocent structure, employing regular rhyme and rhythm. This style aims to convey ideas about innocence and to highlight the poems’ child-like and straightforward nature.

The regular rhythm of the poems combined with their spiritual content enhances the hymn-like quality and imparts a sense of joy and youthfulness. The presence of exclamatives like ‘O!’ and ‘Sound the Flute!’ contributes to a child-like quality in the poems and, simultaneously, evokes feelings of remorse. This duality is one of the primary effects achieved in the poems. It denotes innocence and ignorance among the children, but also reveals their disillusionment, thus effectively conveying Blake’s expression of corruption.

The poems “Night” and “A Dream” incorporate animals, specifically when they are portrayed as talking, to create a mystical and fantastical atmosphere. This further accentuates the child-like theme present throughout the poems. Additionally, the utilization of pastoral and natural themes in many of the poems serves to present an idealistic perspective of the world, evoking a sense of regaining child-like innocence. The employment of symbols like the lamb and birds within the poems conveys a sense of purity, happiness, and youthful spirit.

Blake often adopts the persona of a child in order to reinforce this point and evoke a stronger emotional response from the reader. The utilization of nursery-rhyme-esque structure and repetition, such as ‘Merry Merry Sparrow’, ‘Pretty Pretty Robin’, and ‘Merrily Merrily Merilly’, achieves this effect once again. Furthermore, the use of questions followed by straightforward answers creates a sense of childlike innocence and naivety. The introductory section of “Songs of Innocence” establishes the overall tone and style of the poetry, employing simple language and a melodic quality. Positive descriptors like ‘happy’, ‘merry’, and ‘pleasant’ are frequently reiterated throughout numerous poems.

The text emphasizes the idyllic and innocent theme through the use of positive and joyful words. Blake uses visual imagery to depict a perfect nature, with phrases such as “green woods,” “dimpling stream,” “happy groves,” “green fields,” and “the sun descending in the west.” This portrayal reflects the innocence in the poems, creating a childlike and overly optimistic perspective. Descriptive words like “tender,” “meek,” and “woolly” are used to highlight the gentle nature of the Lamb, providing comfort and reassurance to the reader.

The poems feature various references to parents, parenthood, and images such as “Near my bosom” and “Mothers smiles,” which serve to highlight the comforting and reassuring nature of the poems. Blake conveys the importance of protecting the innocent and presents the selfless love of parents as a recurring theme throughout. This theme of parenthood and protection is also reflected in the soothing tone of the poems, as illustrated by the line “So if all do their duty, they neeed not fear harm.” Words like “made” and “gave” further contribute to a parental theme in the poems, creating a calm atmosphere for the reader.

Blake frequently employs gentle-sounding words in numerous poems to emphasize this impact. The poems found in songs of innocence, in a sense, combine two primary themes. The innocence, simplicity, and countryside features depicted by the children are juxtaposed with the injustices, oppression, and decay of the real world. The children’s naive hopefulness creates a darker and gloomier atmosphere in the poems.

The text suggests that the innocence portrayed in the poems serves as a disguise for a deeper comment on the profound and desperate truth of the world, as well as the helplessness of children when faced with this truth. While some poems are simple in their message, others like “The Chimney Sweeper” and “The Little Black Boy” display a distinct political theme, which Blake emphasizes through a pedagogical tone. He uses symbolism, such as black/white and pure/corrupted, to highlight the injustices of society. The soot symbolizes the “spoiling” of the boy’s “white hair,” reflecting Blake’s concern about the repression of young individuals, a recurring theme throughout his other poems.

Similarly, in “The Little Black Boy,” the phrases “I am Black, but O! my soul is white” and “bereav’d of light” serve as symbols depicting the purity and innocence of the young and uncorrupted in contrast to the sinister and corrupted world. In “The Chimney Sweeper,” Blake’s repeated use of “weep” emphasizes his sorrow and compassion for the injustice. These themes of symbolism can be seen not only in these two poems but also throughout Blake’s other works. Additionally, both poems employ clouds as symbols to represent society’s blind and unforgiving ways, obstructing the radiance of virtue and beauty.

The text highlights the presence of lambs in both poems, serving as a symbolic representation of God or Jesus as well as the innocence and purity in the world. In addition, Blake consistently incorporates a strong theme of God throughout all of his poems, evident in phrases such as ‘he who smiles on all’, ‘thy maker’, and ‘our fathers knee’. In “The Little Black Boy”, a distinctly Christian perspective is conveyed through the phrase ‘I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear’, suggesting that suffering prepares one for heaven. These poems share a similar structure with other works in the collection, gradually transforming into a more optimistic tone towards the conclusion.

Both poems create a sense of unresolved and hopeless situation, yet they remain optimistic, suggesting that the ultimate relief from these injustices can only be found in death. These poems, found in Songs of Innocence, are among the more complex ones. Blake employs metaphors, such as ‘coffins of black,’ to vividly portray the difficult circumstances of chimney sweepers.

The punishment of both the chimney sweeper and the little black boy, one due to race and the other due to poverty, reinforces Blake’s message about the injustices, repression, and corruption faced by vulnerable youth.

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

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