Infant Joy: Poem by William Blake - Summary and Analysis

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Infant Joy

‘‘I have no name;
I am but two days old.’’
What shall I call thee?
‘‘I happy am,
Joy is my name.’’
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy, but two days old.
Sweet Joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while;
Sweet joy befall thee!

Summary and Analysis

       The speakers of 'Infant Joy' are mother and her baby. But there are critics who hold that the poem is an imaginary conversation between a fairy and an infant. According to yet another viewpoint of J.H. Wicksteed the child is unborn and so has no name. It has been conceived two days within its mother's womb. J.H. Wicksteed has derived this outlook mainly from the symbolism of the illustration. If we abide by the opinion of J.H. Wicksteed. Blake may be saying that the life of children after and before their birth is happy.

The speakers of 'Infant Joy' are mother and her baby.
Infant Joy


      Apparently one of the simplest poems Blake's Infant Joy may seem almost without content. From an overall reading we assess it to be an innocent lisping of an infant. But on a close and deep study we come to the roots of its significance. The lines:

"I happy am.

Joy is my name.

Sweet joy befall thee!"

      Suggest something about the world as well as about the mother and the child. The world is a place of joy and it can credit the child with the name, 'Joy'. Now the fact that poses a question is the degree of happiness enjoyed by the mother and the child. Is the child or the mother happier? "Sweet Joy I call thee", assays the mother in the middle of the second stanza. This stanza makes the ensuing stanza's "Sweet Joy befall thee" more than a repetition of the lines in the first stanza. Disregarding the quotation marks, we may see that the sentences are equally applicable either to the child speaking to the mother or vice versa. The world is a place where human beings are born into joy. It is joyful because of the fact that they are born. Giving birth to a child is a joyful aspect of motherhood and thus the generations are bound to each other by a rich heritage of fruitfulness and innocence.

A Mother as the Speaker:

      The popular and most agreeable standpoint of view is that in the poem 'Infant Joy' the speaker is a mother who makes up an imaginary conversation with her child. She may be providing the responses herself. She complacently speaks the words of the child herself and convincingly assigns a joyous nature to it. She names it, 'Joy' which is evidently the embodiment of the abstraction. She wishes 'Sweet joy befall thee' in the refrains and thus marks the infant's future predictably joyous. But markedly, she only wishes and does not confidently assert that joy is inevitable. It is only possible and hence she is proved less dogmatic than the speaker in Infant Sorrow according to whom life contains tense struggles against retarding oppositions. 

The Mother and Virgin Mary:

      The thoughts and speculations related in the poem are of a vicarious nature to those of Virgin Mary. The contents of 'Infant Joy' can also be presumed as the reckonings of Virgin Mary when she was told by the Angel of Annunciation that she will bear a child. The child is called Joy. Rather than a human being it may be a reference to the bodiless all-pervading ubiquitous joy in general.

      The poem again hints at another aspect of innocence which is manifested in a child who transfigures everything into joy. As a critic says. "Joy he conceives as the core of life. joy which we do not learn or receive, or derive from some thing else, but which is our being and essence".

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