INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE

I shall not ask the commentators whether Blake used these two words in union or in antithesis. They assuredly have an inseverable union in the art of literature. The songs of Innocence and Experience are for each poet the songs of his own separate heart and life; but to take the cumulative experiences of other men, and to use these in place of the virginal fruit of thought—whereas one would hardly consent to take them for ordering even the most habitual of daily affairs —is to forgo Innocence and Experience at once and together. Obviously, Experience can be nothing except personal and separate; and Innocence of a singularly solitary quality is his who does not dip his hands into other men's histories, and does not give to his own word the common sanction of other men's summaries and conclusions. Therefore I bind Innocence and Experience in one, and take them as a sign of the necessary and noble isolation of man from man—of his uniqueness. But if I had a mind to forgo that manner of personal separateness, and to use the things of others, I think I would rather appropriate their future than their past. Let me put on their hopes, and the colours of their confidence, if I must borrow. Not that I would burden my prophetic soul with unjustified ambitions; but even this would be more tolerable than to load my memory with an unjustifiable history.

-86-

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Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Winds and Waters 1
  • Ceres' Runaway 3
  • Wells 7
  • Rain 12
  • The Tow Path 15
  • The Tethered Constellations 19
  • Rushes and Reeds 22
  • In a Book Room 27
  • A Northern Fancy 29
  • Pathos 35
  • Anima Pellegrina! 38
  • A Point of Biography 43
  • The Honours of Mortality 48
  • Composure 50
  • The Little Language 55
  • A Counterchange 61
  • Harlequin Mercutio 67
  • Commentaries 71
  • Laughter 73
  • The Rhythm of Life 78
  • Domus Angusta 82
  • Innocence and Experience 86
  • The Hours of Sleep 89
  • Solitude 93
  • Decivilized 99
  • Wayfaring 103
  • The Spirit of Place 105
  • Popular Burlesque 110
  • Have Patience, Little Saint 114
  • At Monastery Gates 120
  • The Sea Wall 126
  • Arts 133
  • Tithonus 135
  • Symmetry and Incident 142
  • The Plaid 152
  • The Flower 156
  • Unstable Equilibrium 159
  • Victorian Caricature 161
  • The Point of Honour 165
  • The Colour of Life 169
  • The Colour of Life 171
  • The Horizon 176
  • In July 181
  • Cloud 184
  • Shadows 188
  • Women and Books 193
  • The Seventeenth Century 195
  • Mrs. Dingley 201
  • Prue 207
  • Mrs. Johnson 213
  • Madame Roland 219
  • The Darling Young 225
  • Fellow Travellers with a Bird 227
  • The Child of Tumult 235
  • The Child of Subsiding Tumult 242
  • The Unready 247
  • That Pretty Person 252
  • Under the Early Stars 259
  • The Illusion of Historic Time 262
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