William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience

William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience

William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience

William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Excerpt

This book gathers together a representative selection of the best criticism that has been devoted to Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience. The critical essays are reprinted here in the chronological order of their original publication, except for my introduction, which I have quarried from my Blake’s Apocalypse (1965). I am grateful to Hillary Kelleher for her assistance as a researcher for this volume.

My introduction contrasts Blake’s ironical versions of the pastoral im age in Songs of Innocence with his equally ironic sense of sexual rebellion that constitutes the prophecy of Orc in Songs of Experience. Northrop Frye, the most Blakean of Blake’s critics, begins the chronological sequence with his unmatched reading of the “Introduction” to Songs of Experience. In a very different critical mode, Martin Price insists that Songs of Innocence ought not to be read ironically, while acknowledging that Innocence, like Experience, has false as well as true aspects.

I myself return, after Price, with a revisionary view of Blake, not wholly reconcilable with the view expounded in my introduction to this volume. My revised readings of “London” and “The Tyger” have encoun tered a great deal of resistance, but they do suggest a less idealized Blake than I think is available elsewhere. Susan Hawk Brisman and Leslie Brisman then offer a reading of “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” that seeks to reconcile my revisionism with the Freudian revisionism of a less overt Gnostic than myself, the late Jacques Lacan.

In a reading of the Songs of Experience as a prophecy of “the family romance,” Diana Hume George usefully contrasts Blake and Freud. The two visions, innocent and experienced, of the little black boy, are then juxtaposed by Myra Glazer, who emphasizes the composite art of the en graved plates.

Robert F. Gleckner traces the strange odyssey of “The Voice of the Ancient Bard,” which he calls “an extraordinarily ambiguous … plate that

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