Introduction: Songs of Innocence - Summary and Analysis

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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 sang 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 vanish’d from my sight;
And I pluck’d a hollow reed,

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

Summary and Analysis


      The poem Introduction gathers momentum gradually and naturally and each stanza plays an important role in the Songs of Innocence in this process with its individual contribution. The first stanza describes how the poet comes across the spiritual infant: the second stanza goes on to say that the child requests the poet to "pipe a song about a Lamb". The poet who pipes the tune is again requested to play the music on his pipe. In the third stanza the poet is implored to sing the Lamb's song vocally and on both occasions-when the poet pipes and sings, the child weeps with joy. After these two stages, the child bids him to write it down so as to enable all to read and enjoy it. The poet does so and brings 'Introduction' to an end.

the depths of Blake's poem we find unravished gems of symbolism and imagery. Rather more significant than the casual appearance suggests
William Blake


      Symbolism is the practice of regarding things as naturally typifying or representing or recalling something by possession of similar qualities or by association in fact or thought. As for Blake's handling of symbolism. Joseph H. Wicksted comments: "The symbolism and the very form of the verse suggest a bodily and spiritual union, complete and secure. of the passive and active elements of love, the maid and man". Coming down to the depths of Blake's poem we find unravished gems of symbolism and imagery. Rather more significant than the casual appearance suggests. the child symbolises poetic inspiration and biblically it refers to Jesus Christ. The child appears in heaven which is the very abode of God. Similarly, 'Lamb' indicates Christ who is often referred to as the good shepherd, King and Son of God too. The valleys wild stands for the pagan (non-Christian or heathen) stage of the poet from where he has a spiritual transition to the stage of Christian religiosity. This transition is facilitated by the child's plea to sing 'about a Lamb' or God. More than a dreamy background, the pastoral setting in the poem carry symbolic significance. The 'rural pen' of the 'hollow reed' undoubtedly epitomises the pastoral clements of the piece. The ink is is made by staining "clear" water-symbol of purity. Thus it is invariable that in Blake's poems symbolism adds beauty and depth.

The Pastoral Elements:

      In pastoral poems. the poet sees himself as a shepherd and moves with his flock of sheep piping melodiously all the way. Such poems describe a rural landscape, beauties and idyllic simplicity. The first few lines of the poem disclose the pastoral elements and bring out the conventional methods of employing these elements to achieve the goal of a pastoral environment

"Piping down the valleys wild.

Piping songs of pleasant glee."

      The poet enacts the part of a vagrant piper and meets the divine face of the child. Obeying the orders of the child. the poet makes a pen out of a hollow reed and producing ink by the help of the water (which again is an element of nature) he writes down his song. S. Foster Damon, rightly maintains: The Songs of Innocence was the first great fruit of Blake's first mystical insight. The Music Way begins in the Garden of Eden. Blake identified at once the ecstacy of the revelation with the state of mind of a child believing deeply that "Of such are the kingdom of Heaven". The rural setting enjoys some sort of prelapsarian freedom of Eden where man and God lived more closely than on the earth and analogous to it, the angelic child appears before the poet, speaks to him and inspires poetic as- pirations in his rural landscape.

And I stain' d the: water clear....

      Deserves our particular attention. The word 'stained' may seem to have an echo of verbal ingenuity. But what invites our primary attention should be the adjectival phrase 'Clear' which, no doubt, refers to the purity and genuineness of the ink in which he depicts his poem. The article or determiner 'the' before 'water' may also point out the fresh showers of rain since the two ideas of the joyfully weeping child and cloud are associated together. However, what the poet gives us is a heavenly landscape affluent in divine and spiritual elements.


      By and large, Blake has won the blessings of his putative 'Muse', the so-called 'child on a cloud', His 'Introduction' is unveiled displaying the country-side simplicity where the music of his pipe reverberates in rich pro fusion. It aptly suggests, or foretells the nature of the poems to follow.

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