World of Experience: in Blake's Songs of Experience

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      Introduction : Every man living in seclusion and developing an intense inner life, gradually comes to give a peculiar significance to certain words and phrases and emblems. Metaphors which to the common writers and journalists are mere handy counters, symbols almost as abstract and unrelated in thought to the things they represent as are the 'x' and 'y' and 'z' used in solving an algebraic problem, are for Blake burdened with rich and various freights of spiritual Experience, says James Thomson. The two regions - that of "Innocence an Experience" - lie far apart, and they signify the whole life cycle of man with his contrary and conflicting groups of passions and emotions. The first of these two groups lasts as long as iman retains the divinity and grace of childhood. Blessed with this divinity the child beholds heavenliness around him, his interest and imagination are more drawn towards things which are simple and meek and mild as he is. He finds the lamb extraordinarily attractive and as innocent as he himself is. But these moments of pure joy and rapture are fleeting. They flow away and the child proceeds step by step towards the strange world of experience.

Every man living in seclusion and developing an intense inner life, gradually comes to give a peculiar significance to certain words and phrases and emblems. Metaphors which to the common writers and journalists are mere handy counters, symbols almost as abstract and unrelated in thought to the things they represent as are the 'x' and 'y' and 'z' used in solving an algebraic problem, are for Blake burdened with rich and various freights of spiritual Experience, says James Thomson.
William Blake

      The World of Experience : In the so-called world of Experience, callousness, tyranny and insincerity await the blithe new-comer and subject him to an entire transformation. The child-turned-youth experiences a curb on his spontaneous instincts, by the repelling codes of social moralities and etiquettes. There is hypocrisy in full swing and there is cruelty. In this unsavoury forge, he is reshaped and bestowed with an altered outlook. He is no more the rollicking child. His fertile imagination yields to the aged atrophied intellect and mature reason. He is in fact 'fallen' or lapsed fallen from his primordial abode of life.

      The Mind-forged Manacles of Experience : The first poem of 'Experience' instigates the fallen man to rise and reach out towards the path of divine grace. The Bard. who is a mighty prophet, a gifted seer blessed with the power of seeing into the future rises to a higher level than common man and gives the clarion call of hope of man's possible awakening. He is vested with the divine power of hearing God's words and he lives out of Time. He is hopeful of man's salvation and redemption.

      But man's answer does not reflect the warmth and enthusiasm; he (whom Earth represents) is bound in chains that cripple him and negate his mental virility and sexual fertility. Only if the social manacles are removed, can Earth be free to follow in the footprints of the Bard. The duty of a poet, we see, is to fight against the slavery of man. He has to break the sturdy links of retarding social codes that hinder the free life of man. May be the codes are religious, social or political the poet shall attempt his best to de-link them and liberate his fellowmen.

      Struck with the realistic retort of Earth (or man) the poet arms himself with the weapon of irony and satire; and all his poetic barbs and arrows are directed at the social parasites, corrupt church and its clergy and state institutions. Thus in Nurse's Songs Blake visualizes the experienced nurse's detrimental presence in the field where the children play joyfully. It makes her jealous to see them playing and so she commands them to stop. In 'The Fly' the poet substantiates the insignificance of man: on another level, he propounds the equality of all the objects of God's creation. Opposed to all kinds of oppression Blake strongly criticises the society and institutions which have made the chimney-sweeper's state what it is. 'Holy Thursday' denounces a society that allows its children to seek charity for a living. The state of affairs is almost all due to the rigid conventions held by religious and social institutions.

      In 'The Tyger', the poet lauds the energetic aspect of the human soul. When the conventional religion devalues the conventional codes of morality. For him 'energy' is divine, godly and deserving of freedom. 'The Little Vagabond', 'A Little Boy Lost,' 'The Garden of Love' and 'The Chimney-Sweeper' all express Blake's righteous indignation against the malpractices and unintelligible clauses of false morality. 'London,' 'Poison Tree', 'The School Boy' and 'A Little Girl Lost' all castigate society. 'A Little Girl Lost' is a strong condemnation of the repression of love. 'The Sick Rose' is a concentrated expression of the post's horror at sexual repression. 'Ah, Sunflower' pleads for free expression of love. But man's instincts and impulses have been suppressed. In 'Holy Thursday' the poet asks:

Is this a holy thing to see
In a rich and fruitful laud
Babes reduced to misery
Fed with cold and usurous hands..

      His criticism of the selfishness of man or society is bitter and he expresses it frankly in his poems. He traces the causes of human miseries to the hell made by man himself. In 'London' he says:

In every cry of every man.
In every infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban
The mind forged manacles I hear.

      Hope of Resurrection : in spite of all the malpractices of Church and Society and despite the fallen man's temporary vices and evils, the bard is optimistic of man's risc and salvation from the slough of atrocities. The only requirement is that man should abandon the negative path of Urizen - the god of Iron-rod - and follow the guiding steps of the loving God-Jesus Christ. Then the chain that binds him will crumble into pieces and he shali be set free. In other words. he shall avoid Jehovah and love the Son of God. At this stage of experience man has lost his world of innocence. But he is not to be worried on that score because in case he adopts the divine path he will be raised into a still more sublime world of higher innocence. That will be an 'ample recompensation' for the loss of his early abode of natural charm and pastoral loveliness.

      Conclusion : The world of Songs of Experience is frightening and nasty. Here, we are shown a comparatively degenerated and repelling atmosphere than in Songs of Innocence. Though in Innocence, we see the poems The Little Black Boy, The Chimney-Sweeper, Holy Thursday and Little Boy Lost and Little Boy Found concluding on a more or less happy note there is no such obviously hopeful note in Songs of Experience. There the human soul's redemption is implied rather than announced or described in so many words. Blake's 'motif' was, as he declared, to restore the 'Golden Ancient Age.' But he cannot sweep off the whole of humanity with him because mankind is lost in devout admiration of Reason' (as against 'Imagination') or 'Urizen' who is Blake's symbol for 'Reason. Together with 'Reason' there are the 'caterpillars and ravens that sit in their nest to catch the human prey. The evil influence of Urizen upon the human beings is deep. He sows the seeds of selfish love and tyranny in their minds and renders them ineligible for attaining the 'new world.' The aim of Urizen is to bind, fetter. imprison and freeze. He wants to keep man 'fallen', 'lapsed' and earth-bound. Man succumbs and becomes a slave of custom and rigid convention - it is the experience of maturity. However, the world of experience is a necessary world for man to pass through on his way to higher innocence.

University Questions also can be Answered:

Q. What does the world of experience connote as evoked in Blake's Songs of Experience?
Or
Q. Evaluate Blake's view of life as presented in the Songs of Experience.
Or
Q. The forms of bondage, especially the bondage of 'sexual strife', are the chief ingredients of Songs of Experience." Elucidate with reference to the world of experience as depicted by Blake.
Or
Q. "Age and infancy communicate Experience", How would you elucidate this with reference to the world of experience in Blake.

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