Date of Award

Spring 1965

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Languages & Literature

First Advisor

Joseph Ward

Abstract

Reading the ’’Songs of William Blake is like looking through binoculars at the beauty of a mountain far removed and often forgotten; studying these "Songs" is like wandering over the mountain with careless, aimless freedom, searching for nothing but finding the hidden crevices, the deep dells, the crisp, dark forest, the stream bursting bright bubbles of foam; the little path going who-knows-where. Majestically beautiful like a mountain, yet tiny as a diamond, chiseled to perfection which, when held to the sunlight, will reflect a thousand brilliant lights, some cold and hard, some warm and soft. So too do the Songs of Innocence and Experience—"Shewing the Contrary States of the Human Soul" reflect marvelous rainbow mists with a hoarfrost delicacy which one might be afraid of desecrating and destroying with too much inspection and handling, but which, far from melting in the sun, prove to be hard as tracery in chiseled marble. And as watching the glint of the diamond or wandering over the mountainside reveals the strength and beauty of their creator as well as of the objects themselves,, the "Songs of Innocence" reveal the beauty and purity of Blake's mind, and the "Songs of Experience" reveal its strength.

In this thesis I shall attempt to draw into the sunlight some of the finest points of radiance of the gems of William Blake. They will be viewed in terms of the attitudes and ideas which wind throughout them like a bright thread, but they will also be studied as marvelously clear reflections of the pure and sensitive mind that created them. It is hoped that hereafter these poems will be appreciated by present and future readers of Blake for what they are—fine examples of high lyrical grace with meanings which are also beautiful. The main purpose of this thesis then is simply appreciation through understanding. The "Songs of Innocence and Experience" had been slighted in their own time, although they received attention in the nineteenth century. They are slighted again today. The main attitude is one such as Harold Bloom's which has been an insistent and indignant claim that "The 'Songs of Innocence and Experience', since unworthy of great mention, should not usurp something of the study that should be given to Blake's more ambitious and greater works." 1 It is hoped that this thesis will be able to not only eradicate this false opinion, but also will be able to give direction to the understanding of the Songs of William Blake so that they can be known and loved in every detail for all their beauty of thought and meaning.

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