380px-Blake sie cover

Songs of Innocence and of Experience is an illustrated collection of poems by William Blake.

History Edit

The book appeared in 2 phases. A few copies of Songs of Innocence were printed and illuminated by Blake in 1789. Five years later he bound these poems with a set of new poems in a volume titled Songs of Innocence and of Experience Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.

Songs of InnocenceEdit

Songs of Innocence was originally printed in 1789. It is a conceptual collection of 19 poems, engraved with artwork.

The poems are:

The Shepherd
The Echoing Green
The Lamb
The Little Black Boy
The Blossom
The Chimney Sweeper
The Little Girl lost
The Little Girl found
The Little Boy lost
The Little Boy found
Laughing Song
A Cradle Song
The Divine Image
Holy Thursday
Nurse's Song
Infant Joy
A Dream
On Another's Sorrow

Songs of ExperienceEdit

File:Blake Experience 29.jpg

Songs of Experience is a collection of 26 poems, which forms the 2nd part of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Some of the poems, such as The Little Boy Lost and The Little Boy Found were moved by Blake to Songs of Innocence, and were frequently moved between the 2 books.(Citation needed)

Earth's Answer
The Clod and the Pebble
Holy Thursday
The Little Girl Lost
The Little Girl Found
The Chimney Sweeper
Nurse's Song
The Sick Rose
The Fly
The Angel
The Tyger
My Pretty Rose Tree
Ah! Sun-flower 
The Lily
The Garden of Love
The Little Vagabond
The Human Abstract
Infant Sorrow
A Poison Tree
A Little Boy Lost
A Little Girl Lost
To Tirzah
The Schoolboy
The Voice of the Ancient Bard
A Divine Image


"Innocence" and "Experience" are definitions of consciousness that rethink Milton's existential-mythic states of "Paradise" and the "Fall." Blake's categories are modes of perception that tend to coordinate with a chronology that would become standard in Romanticism: childhood is a time and a state of protected "innocence," but not immune to the fallen world and its institutions. This world sometimes impinges on childhood itself, and in any event becomes known through "experience," a state of being marked by the loss of childhood vitality, by fear and inhibition, by social and political corruption, and by the manifold oppression of Church, State, and the ruling classes. The volume's "Contrary States" are sometimes signaled by patently repeated or contrasted titles: in Innocence, Infant Joy, in Experience, Infant Sorrow; in Innocence, The Lamb, in Experience, The Fly and The Tyger.

Blake contrasts his Songs of Innocence, in which he shows how the human spirit blossoms when allowed its own free movement with his Songs of Experience, in which he shows how the human spirit withers after it has been suppressed and forced to conform to rules, and doctrines. Blake was an English Dissenter and actively opposed the Anglican doctrines, which in his view told its members to suppress their feelings. Blake showed how he believed this was wrong through his poems in Songs of Experience.(Citation needed)

The most notable of the poems in Songs of Experience are: "The Tyger", "The Sick Rose", "Ah, Sunflower," "A Poison Tree" and "London". Although these poems today are enjoyed and appreciated, in Blake's time, they were not appreciated at all.(Citation needed) Blake lived this entire life in poverty and in heavy debt.(Citation needed) Songs of Experience sold only 20 copies before his death in 1827.


Songs of Innocence and Experience is now used in the school GCSE and A-level curriculum.

In popular culture Edit

Poems from both books have been set to music by many composers, including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Sven-David Sandström, and Benjamin Britten.

Individual poems have also been set by, among others, John Tavener, Jah Wobble, Tangerine Dream. A modified version of the poem "The Little Black Boy" was set to music in the song "My Mother Bore Me" from Maury Yeston's musical Phantom.

Folk musician Greg Brown recorded 16 of the poems on his 1987 album Songs of Innocence and of Experience[1] and by Finn Coren in his Blake Project.

Poet Allen Ginsberg believed the poems were originally intended to be sung, and that through study of the rhyme and meter of the works, a Blakean performance could be approximately replicated. In 1969, he conceived, arranged, directed, sang on, and played piano and harmonium for an album of songs entitled Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake, tuned by Allen Ginsberg (1970).[2]

Composer William Bolcom completed a setting of the entire collection of poems in 1984. In 2005, a recording of Bolcom's work by Leonard Slatkin, the Michigan State Childrens Choir, and the University of Michigan on the Naxos label won 3 Grammy Awards: Best Choral Performance, Best Classical Contemporary Composition, and Best Classical Album.[3]

See alsoEdit

Songs of Innocence and Experience audiobook

Songs of Innocence and Experience audiobook


External linksEdit

Audio / video
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