William Blake, “Songs of Innocence and Experience” (1789)

Note: the title of each of the three poems below is a link that will lead you the Blake Archives, which shows the original artwork for the poems as it was printed. They really are cool, so you should check them out.

“Introduction” (to Songs of Innocence and Experience)

Piping down the valleys wild,
Piping songs of pleasant glee,
On a cloud I saw a child,
And he laughing said to me:

“Pipe a song about a Lamb!”
So I piped with merry cheer.
“Piper, pipe that song again;”
So I piped: he wept to hear.

“Drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe;
Sing thy songs of happy cheer!”
So I sung the same again,
While he wept with joy to hear.

“Piper, sit thee down and write
In a book, that all may read.”
So he vanished from my sight,
And I plucked a hollow reed,

And I made a rural pen,
And I stained the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs
Every child may joy to hear.

“The Schoolboy”

I love to rise in a summer morn
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the skylark sings with me.
Oh, what sweet company!

But to go to school in a summer morn,
Oh! it drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.

Ah! then at times I drooping sit,
And spend many an anxious hour;
Nor in my book can I take delight,
Nor sit in learning’s bower,
Worn through with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?
How can a child, when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing,
And forget his youthful spring?

O, father and mother, if buds are nipped
And blossoms blown away,
And if the tender plants are stripped
Of their joy in the springing day,
By sorrow and care’s dismay,

How shall the summer arise in joy,
Or the summer fruits appear?
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,
Or bless the mellowing year,
When the blasts of winter appear?

(see, they’re not too much different than us 2013 schoolkids………we don’t want to go to school in summer any more than they do!!)

“The Little Black Boy”

My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but oh! my soul is white.
White as an angel is the English child,
But I am black as if bereaved of light.

My mother taught me underneath a tree,
And, sitting down before the heat of day,
She took me on her lap and kissed me,
And pointing to the east began to say:

“Look on the rising sun, -there God does live
And gives his light, and gives his heat away;
And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
Comfort in morning, joy in the noonday.

And we are put on earth a little space
That we may learn to bear the beams of love;
And these black bodies and this sunburnt face
Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

For when our souls have learned the heat to bear
The cloud will vanish, we shall hear his voice
Saying: `Come out from the grove, my love and care,
And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice!’ ”

Thus did my mother say, and kissed me;
And thus I say to little English boy:
When I from black and he from white cloud free,
And round the tent of God like lambs we joy,

I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear
To lean in joy upon our father’s knee;
And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him, and he will then love me.

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This entry was posted in Group 1: Children and the Enlightenment by Rachel Martin. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rachel Martin

I am currently a sophomore English Education major with a minor in business administration. Although I currently reside in Columbia, I am from Lexington, South Carolina originally. Writing has always been an interest of mine, but my true passion lies in reading literature. In the future, I hope to share this passion with students ranging from middle school to university.

One thought on “William Blake, “Songs of Innocence and Experience” (1789)

  1. Pingback: Group 1: Readings available! | sapere aude

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