Songs of Innocence and of Experience

A collection of poems by William Blake (1757-1827), illustrated with the poet's own etchings and published in 1789. In the work, Blake investigates, as he puts it in the subtitle, 'the two contrary states of the human soul'. Despite the simple rhythms and rhyming patterns, and the images of children, animals and flowers, the Songs are often troubling, argumentative or satirical, and reflect Blake’s deeply held political beliefs and spiritual experience. Blake’s vision embraces radical subjects such as poverty, child labour and abuse, the repressive nature of the state and church, as well as the right of children to be treated as individuals with their own desires. Many of the poems in Songs of Experience respond to counterparts in Songs of Innocence.

William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience

William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience [page: 1]

View images from this item  (50)

Usage terms Public Domain

Creator:
William Blake
Published:
1794
Forms:
Poem
Genre:
Romantic poetry
Literary period:
Romantic

Related articles

Blake's two chimney sweepers

Article by:
Linda Freedman
Themes:
Romanticism, London

Songs of Innocence and of Experience contains two poems about young chimney sweepers: one in 'Innocence' and one in 'Experience'. Dr Linda Freedman considers how this allows for a complex, subtle engagement with the figure of the sweep.

An introduction to 'The Tyger'

Article by:
George Norton
Theme:
Romanticism

George Norton's close reading of William Blake’s 'The Tyger' considers the poem's imagery through 18th-century industrial and political revolutions and moral literature.

The title page of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence (1789)

Article by:
Michael Philips
Themes:
Childhood and children's literature, Romanticism

Michael Phillips compares the title page of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence to an earlier children’s book, in order to reveal Blake's progressive views on the importance and power of childhood.

Related collection items

Related people

Related videos

William Blake’s printing process

William Blake’s printing process

Michael Phillips demonstrates William Blake’s printing process and explains its significance to his work as a poet and artist. Filmed at Morley College, London. - video

Iain Sinclair on William Blake

William Blake’s radicalism

Iain Sinclair explores the historical background to William Blake’s radical writings. Filmed on the South Bank of the River Thames, Vauxhall, London. - video

William Blake’s spiritual visions

William Blake’s spiritual visions

Sinclair visits William Blake’s grave and discusses the spiritual visions that made up such a significant part of his life and work. Filmed at Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, London. - video