The purpose of this essay is to discuss the first illuminated –that is, illustrated- work of writter Willian Blake: The Songs of Innocence and The Songs of Experience, which were later compiled into a single work.
These books are collections of poems; the first one, The Songs of Innocence, is presented as a collection of poems for children and has a very uplifting tone, talking about the joys of childhood and the Love of God towards all living beings. Even poems like “The Little Black Boy” and “The Chimney Sweeper”, that deal with slavery and child labour, respectively, are very opmistic.
The Songs of Experience, however, is more cynical. It is supposed to be “the truths of the world”, sang by a wandering bard. It deals with themes like poverty and the efemerity of youth, but especially it makes attacks against religion. Among the messages of the poems there ir the recurring theme that religion prevents people from enjoying the joys of life. “Earth’s Answer” tells that God is a jealous tyrant who envies humanity for its pleasures. The collection tells how the Church tyranizes people.
When put together, the two anthologies can be interpreted as how our views about the world change as we get older. We start to see the “ugly” side of the world and realize that we must face problems in our lives.
It’s time to grow up.