Saturday, 28 May 2011

Pack your innocence - it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

When reading the two poems in my last post I thought it interesting that Blake gave hope and comfort in God to the innocent but criticism and blame (rightly felt) to the experienced. The innocent find solace, the experienced seek justice.

An old professor of mine (in a Middle English lit class) once suggested that there were powers of high political/religious authority in England who he thought encouraged the writings of the day to favour the principles of submission, duty, obedience, long suffering...not because they were noble ideals to live by but in hopes that the peasantry wouldn't rise up, demand rights, shake up the social order and cause them trouble. Maybe Blake is echoing (and mocking?) that type of rhetoric because when I read the first poem it's powerless, submissive and weak tone bothered me. But the two poems really do compliment each other.

In Songs of Innocence, the boy in “The Chimney Sweeper” sees his situation through the eyes of innocence and does not understand the social injustice. In Songs of Experience, the boy in the poem sees the injustice and speaks against the establishments that left him where he is. Different aspects of one poem illuminate opposing aspects of the other poem. Ideas addressed in Innocence contrast the different views of Experience, as Experience does for Innocence, emphasizing the need for a balance of the two. The fact that these poems can influence the reader’s interpretation of one another confirms Blake’s notion that neither innocence nor experience is a correct view and that one completes the other. - K.L. Reiser

On a trip to Mauthausen - a former concentration camp in Austria - I remember hearing that after it was cleared out someone found writing on a wall that read "When I die, if there is a God after all, he will have to beg for my forgiveness."

I think a lot of people let go of God as they grow more experienced in the pains and heartache of life (many understandably so). But some hold on, tighten their grip, and keep a bit of their innocence even into the rough waters of experience. What a gem to hold on to because I think that our innocence contains fountains of love, forgiveness, faith and hope. Handy things to have when you're sailing on a stormy sea.

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