The poems by William Blake are vital for their contrasting value. The features in such small poems which are described in the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience correspond directly to live. Two poems from these compilations are Infant Joy and Infant Sorrow respectively. These poems are under analysis for several reasons. First of all, they are highly emotional. Second, an observer can make an appropriate conclusion just after reading them. When comparing and contrasting these poems one can simply evaluate them. The thing is that they are in an antagonistic dependence. The first is the description of joy and happiness after the arrival of an innocent babe. The second poem is the manifestation of sorrow at the fact of the birth of an unwanted child. Joy and despair are contrasting from the very beginning of both poems. In this respect, it is necessary to deeper analyze the organizational and expressive building of both poems under analysis. Moreover, their relevance is depicted by the author, so that to point out the point at which humane in people may begin or finish.
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The poem Infant Joy is the description of warm feelings and love at the appearance of a baby. It constitutes the emergence of parent instincts, because of such a great event. It describes the celebration of this unique sensation in a family. It is the moment at which the world is happy to admit the appearance of a new generation, of a new human being. It is the moment of truth when adults praise everything and every higher power for such gift:
Sweet Joy, but two days old (Miles 51),
On the other hand, the poem Infant Sorrow from the first accords demonstrates the sorrow of rejection and unwillingness of a new baby in a family. It is a moment of total despair for both parents due to their inability to have one more child. It is the symbolic description of how in an everyday life people encounter so vital things which are the result of a primordial mistake. When talking about this poem, one realizes the hardships and darkness of such a moment. Thus, the antithesis appears. It is disclosed in the understanding that a light event of the birth of a child is colored darkly owing to its unplanned character. While reading this short poem, tears are emerging on eyes due to the effect of sorrow that it inflicts on a reader:
My mother groaned, my father wept,
Into the dangerous world I leaped;
Helpless, naked, piping loud,
Like a fiend hid in the cloud (Miles 51).
Thus, the antagonism of the two poems points out the bilateral nature of attitudes. In other words, people are struggling for their happiness, but in most cases, they are the victims of their own mistakes. It is a noteworthy reality of life. In most points, people are inclined to think that everything will be all right until it is wrong. In fact, the amorality of people had achieved the point when the blessed moment of birth of a child does not bring joy, as it is. Owing to the poem Infant Sorrow, one may clearly imagine the irresponsibility of father and mother. Their deeds leave much to be desired. Their humane is wrong. It is so due to the initial selfishness and wrongness of the actions by adults. On the other hand, it may be caused by poverty. Taking into account the fact that in ominous poverty these parents will scarcely bring up this child, they are involved in sorrow. Even the author admits the fact of sorrow, as the result of poverty: “In such a constraining environment innocent openness turns defensive, as in “Infant Sorrow,” to counter a social oppression that appears universal” (Blake and Curran 7). One should not diminish the social constituent that outlined in despair at the birth of a child.
Joy and innocence are the feelings that, in fact, add more positive moments to life. It is discovered throughout the history of mankind. Most human beings are apt to highlight the desired nature of the birth of a baby. This baby is surrounded by care and love at the moment of first acquaintance with this cruel world. However, Infant Sorrow is doomed to spend their first days in the darkness and absence of love from the side of first defenders. This tragedy is highly depicted in few lines. The happiness and joy of Infant Joy provide another scope of feelings. Thus, the main difference between both poems is in the ability of the author to show the positive and negative sides. The mastership of William Blake is included in the object which he chose for more expression, namely a baby at birth. Blake does not describe in these poems the themes of love or nature, or humanity, but rather imagination (Burdett 44). In this case, many critics of the poet’s time and of nowadays urge to mention that Blake promotes some features of symbolic understanding of poems.
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Hence, it is significant to recognize the feelings of Blake when he, as an artist, looks at the reality of the world. His creative thought leads toward an understanding of the good and bad sides of the essence. By means of creative thought, Blake represents the cultivation of forms and characters in the union of meaning. Many critics relate this feature of the author to the writing of Songs. The contrast of the two poems depicts the contrast of life and its cruelty as well. The artistic ability of the author is imposed in the fact that “Blake makes words and images cooperate in ways that radically challenge its definition of painting” (Heffernan 83). In this feature of the expressive implementation, both poems can be united. The author used a merely optimal number of epithets and descriptions. In turn, this provides an extended picture of joy and sorrow. Blake, as a painter, with few strokes of an imaginary brush could draw up the inner huge idea in two small poems. This is the way in which an observer can understand the whole Blake on the example of Infant Joy contrasted to Infant Sorrow.
Differences in Themes
Thus, the author placed Infant Joy into the Songs of Experience in order to point out the resistance of an unfallen man (Damon and Eaves 378). The poet draws the logical lines of the angelic and divine support of a man who directs his hopes toward what is his or hers. A baby in joy and care symbolizes the ability to protect and be protected. The principle “sink or swim” arises in this respect. It is applicable for the purpose of distinctive understanding that this world is uneasy. On the other hand, in Infant Sorrow many observers of literature underline the designation of parental roles. Thus, the groans of the mother symbolize the loss of the mother’s care about a child and the significance of the father’s authority (Murphy 1). In this respect, the analysis of this poem becomes more interesting, as it gives other assumptions about the author’s primary intentions. Here stays a dilemma between the attitudes of both parents through a child. The joy in the first case provides the dynamics of harmony and mutual understanding between parents. The role and the function of joy are constructive and healing for all spheres of family life. Hence, there is no danger for a child of two days old. The atmosphere of security by love and care inevitably surrounds this child.
On the other hand, the sorrow represents initial disagreement between parents. Their role as a baby is undetermined due to the unwillingness of his/her. It is a dramatic evaluation of how time prospects and social instability can be reflected on entire instincts of parental care. In turn, a child and his/her destiny at first moments of life are described in the following scene:
Struggling in my father’s hands,
Striving against my swaddling bands,
Bound and weary, I thought best
To sulk upon my mother’s breast (Miles 51).
In this stanza, a reader faces the challenge of struggle. The first person singular emphasizes the estimation of conditions under which a bay happened to live. It is also the characterization of the father’s authority, as was mentioned above. The hopelessness of a baby is implied into a desire not to give up. Thus, here one may see the great human perspectives from the standpoints of the microcosm of a baby. Based on the reality of families living in each epoch, it is vital to admit that joy and sorrow are the features that can be mutually replaced. In most cases after the moment of sorrow people are waiting for great joy. It is like pregnancy and maternity on the whole. From the other side, joy can also end for a while by the intrusion of sorrow. In this respect, a man should be firm and sustained.
A more tentative quality of Infant Joy over Infant Sorrow is described also in the way of rhyming. William Blake uses different sizes and rhyming to depict the difference between the two poems. He never hesitates to highlight one feature and to leave for assumptions another. In this peculiarity of Blake one may point out that Infant Sorrow has AABB rhyme throughout the whole poem; whereas Infant Joy has ABCDAC rhyme in the first and ABCDDC in the second stanzas (Murphy 1). Hence, such difference also serves as a contrast for both poems.
To conclude, William Blake masterly describes the difference of real life in the example of two poems: Infant Joy and Infant Sorrow. In this respect, the joy and happiness about the appearance of new life contrast to despair and rejection. The author in these two small poems is apt to illuminate the significance of social conditions and moral background for having a baby. On the other hand, it is a symbolic description of relationships between parents and a child from the very beginning. All in all, there are more points of contrast in both poems than of similarity.
Blake, William, and Curran, Stuart. Songs of innocence and of experience. New York: Octavo, 2003.
Burdett, Osbert. William Blake. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2003.
Damon, Samuel Foster, and Eaves, Morris. A Blake Dictionary: the ideas and symbols of William Blake. Washington, DC: UPNE, 1988.
Heffernan, James A. W. Cultivating picture: visual art and verbal interventions. Chicago, IL: Baylor University Press, 2006.
Miles, Susan. Childhood in Verse and Prose – An Anthology. New York: READ BOOKS, 2007.
Murphy, John. “Infant Sorrow”: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism, 1995.