“Without contrariness is no progression”–William Blake
“Without contrariness is no progression” said Blake from your reading of his poems, describe how, Blake move from Songs of Innocence to Songs of Experience, “The exquisitely tender vision of childhood is crossed and shadowed by the darker realities of life”.
The huge difference between childhood and mature life, if one wants to see, he can read “Songs of Innocence and Experience” by William Blake. Both these stages are vastly different from each other. In first one, life is charming. There is nothing to worry; no fears and if there is any tiny fear, next friend in shape of mother, father or brother can be found for consolation. With the passage of time, these small fears become huge hurdles and problems. The heart which was once innocent became fearful. The feelings of joy and happiness end with the growth of mind and body. The heart, in the age of innocence, is harmonious and fearless from the hard realities of life but with the experiences of life, it becomes harsh and emotionless. As a painter and poet, William Blake, thinks differently than the masses. Pictorial representation of childhood life and experienced life is the theme of “Songs of Experience and Innocence”.
Songs of Innocence, as discussed above, deals with pastoral as well as innocent life. Here, “The Shepherd”, “The Lamb” and “Spring” are worth mentioning. When the child sees the life of shepherd, it is enviable for him. The heart of every child wants to flee from bounded life. Every child wants to stray like the shepherd strays and wants to sing songs like him. In the poem, wandering of shepherd behind his sheep is praised by the child. Similarly, a question has been asked in “The Lamb”, by a child, which is common in every child’s mind; the existence of man and creation of the world. Likewise, “Spring” welcomes the spring season. “Sound the flute, Now it’s mute. Birds delight, Day and night, Nightingale In the dale, Lark in Sky, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, to welcome in the year.” The poem basically is the song, which is sung from the core of every innocent heart to welcome the spring season. In addition, the poems like “The Echoing Green”, “The Lamb”, “The Blossom”, “The Little Boy Lost”, “The Little Boy Found”, “Holy Thursday” and “A Dream” are from songs of innocence and are totally free from dark shadows of life.
Songs of Experience is totally opposite to songs of innocence. The poet in juxtaposition has illustrated the difference between an innocent and experience heart. One is free from horror, other is filled with it. In innocence, heart decides what to do but with the experiences of life, burden shifts on the mind and in every decision, shrewdness is added. The Songs of Experience mainly concerns with harshness and miseries of life. “Holy Thursday” is remarkable example of it, in which social and moral justice is questioned. A society where resources are abundant but children are still “reduced to misery”. “Earth’s Answer” is another example of it, in which the earth has been personified as a woman. She raises her head and asks a series of questions. In this poem, the ravening world of the devourer, adult world, sex and diseases, a dark confined dirty urban world has been presented by the poet. The earth is fed up from these offenses. Eventually, she states that the chains be broken and she be set free. Meaning thereby, she be set free from greed, sex, diseases and dirty urban life. In this way, the list of poems in songs of experience goes on and the poet, with diverse subject, illustrates the cruelties and miseries of life.
There is no doubt that “Songs of Innocence” is totally poles apart from “Songs of Experience”. If we put both these type of poems in juxtaposition, we find that an illustration has been adjudged twice by the poet. First one is innocent, charming, joyful and immature, whereas the other is miserable, unhappy, gloomy and dejected. Take an example of “Holy Thursday”; in “Songs of Innocence”, the children are happy while wearing coats of different colours but same poem in “Songs of Experience” has gloomy side; the poet has questioned social and moral justice. “Nurse’s Songs” is another example of skilful defiance depiction of two periods of life. In innocence, the nurse allows the children to play and she has no fear. The children are also oblivious to the dangers. When the children insist, the nurse allows them to continue their game. In experience, the situation is totally different; now the nurse has different attitude; she is bitter and fears the consequences of her actions. Likewise, “Infant Joy” is in contrast to “Infant Sorrow”. In “Infant Joy” the child is happy while saying “I happy am, Joy is my name” but in “Infant Sorrow”, the child is scared as his father wept because the world, in which his child has came is dangerous. There are uncertainties about the future and his father is worried about them. How the child will survive in this cruel world is a question, which is being asked repeatedly by the uncertainties.
William Blake is no doubt right when he says “Without contrariness is no progression”. It is natural principle that when a thing is adjudged by anyone, it is compared with others. To know worth of something it must be put in contrast with other things. William Blake, first adjudges a painting from the view of an innocent mind and then with mature as well as experienced mind. In “innocence”, the vision is sensitive, happy and always positive but in “experience” the vision is mostly negative and gloomy. The development from child’s imagination to mature thoughts is very beautifully practiced by the poet in shape of “Songs of Innocence and Experience”. In short, it is true that in “Songs of Innocence and Experience”, poems are arranged in way that the exquisitely tender vision of childhood is crossed and shadowed by the darker realities of life.