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Comparative Analysis of Infant Joy and Infant Sorrow William Blake’s Infant Joy from the Songs of Innocence and Infant Sorrow from the Songs of Experience are in direct contrast from one another. Infant Joy represents the celebration and joy felt at the arrival of an innocent babe, while Infant Sorrow is a poem of the despair and rejection at the birth of an unwanted child. The former poem leaves one with the feeling of warmth and innocence; the latter only offers a bleak and dark existence that shall last a lifetime. Blake presents the reader with two aspects of the birth of life—one that is softened by peace and purity, and another that is really no life at all. Infant Joy radiates happiness and love. It is an expression of the elation and wonder felt at the birth of a tiny babe. The scene is one of tranquillity—a mother gently cradling her child at her breast. Both the mother and babe are given a voice. The mother addresses her tiny infant, only thoughts of tenderness and love consuming her. She revels in the joy of her motherhood. Her precious infant is embracing his new life and surroundings, proclaiming to the world his arrival of only two days before. The tone is one of hope mingled with a glowing, radiant happiness. The tiny infant is only two days old, and he has yet to be named. Without a name, the infant cannot be judged; his short life has only been one of unblemished innocence. Limiting factors do not exist for the babe. He is potential—a whole lifetime awaits him. The innocence known to the infant only serves to emphasize the lack of evilness and corruption in his world. At this moment, the babe is goodness and all those things in life that are warm and giving. One is left with the hope his innocence will not be lost, and that a beautiful and uplifting aura will always envelope him. The words chosen by Blake—joy, happy, pretty, sweet, sing, and smile—exude a sense of contentment. The words contribute to a feeling of radiance felt at the occasion of the infant’s birth—a timeless situation. The joy felt by the mother is many times experienced throughout life, one would hope every time a woman gives birth. The age of the child is important, as it emphasizes the innocence of the babe. The mother names her child “joy.” She revels in his innocent smile. The infant is trusting, as his mother tenderly holds him to her breast. As she sings a lullaby to her tiny babe, she wishes for only joy to befall him. One may almost interpret this as a prayer—a prayer from her heart and a wish that his babyhood be filled with warm, loving happiness. In his smile, she sees a reflection of her own contentment. Her sleepy infant warms her, and she wants only to protect him from the cold world that exists outside the adoring embrace of her arms. One envisions this scene in the purity of white. White is innocence and incorruptibility. The baby is gently tucked in a white, fluffy blanket—only his rosy cheeks, sparkling eyes, and sweet smile are left to peek from the cuddly bundle. The vision is hazy, the harsh angles smoothed into a gentle roundness. This is heaven, but not heaven in the pastoral sense. This is a heaven found on earth. This is a heaven created especially for an adoring mother and the purity of her new infant. This is a place one wishes to stay forever. In stark and glaring contrast, Infant Sorrow is the dark scene of an unwanted birth—an infant born in a cold and unfeeling world. The infant is the only angry speaker of this poem. He addresses a world that will never listen to his downtrodden voice, no matter how loud his wails. The world weeps for him, but offers no comforting embrace. The tone is sullen and mean, contributing to a sense of hopelessness and despair. Unlike his two day old counterpart, one is introduced to this infant at his birth. One is left to witness the agony of birth. Although he is given no name, one unerringly may guess this child is Despair. Already, the squalling babe is stained with corruption. He is left with no chance to encounter joy in his life. He will never be branded innocent. One is left with a feeling of hopelessness—this infant’s existence will only be comprised of dissatisfaction and helplessness. The words chosen by Blake are stark—dangerous, helpless, naked, loud, struggling, bound, weary, and sulk. These words conjure a bleak existence and encumber the poem with tension. This is not an anticipated birth, as the father weeps at the sight of his child. Blake describes the child’s push from his mother’s womb as a leap into the world, not even to be cradled in his parents’ unwelcoming embrace. This unwanted babe finds a cold welcome in his father’s hands, as he thrust away from a breast that will never offer him comfort. His parents are the poor and downtrodden of the London streets. Life has soured them of kindness and charity. This infant is only one more mouth to feed, and it will be years before he will be able to work as a slave of child labor. He is wrapped, struggling, in dingy and vermin-infested swaddling rags. Already he is bound and downtrodden. He will not have long to wait until his cheeks will be hollowed with hunger and despair, his eyes robbed of life for eternity. Brown and gray are the colors of this scene. These are the colors of dirt and death. This place is a deep pit extending to the bowels of the earth. Not quite hell, for the devil does not possess souls. There are no souls here. The eyes, the windows to the soul, are forever shuttered. From the moment he was born as Despair, this infant was tightly imprisoned in his baby clothes, so he may never struggle again. He is weary, and in defeat he sullenly rests against his mother’s thin breast—a breast never to offer him sustinence. In writing Infant Joy and Infant Sorrow, William Blake has offered us a coin, one side gleaming golden, while the other is tarnished. The golden side of this coin creates an almost indescribable emotion—an emotion so pure, so innocent, so untouched—that one is hesitant to even name this feeling for fear of destroying the moment of angelic purity. The image of the mother and her babe is eternal. Blake does more than warm the heart with this poem; he crafts the heart and gives it life. The tarnished side of the coin represents a child stained by the misdeeds of life and the knowledge of an adult. Just as he crafted a heart with Infant Joy, with Infant Sorrow, Blake displays his ability to cripple the same heart with his gift for words. Bibliography William Blake's Infant Joy and Infant Sorrow Word Count: 1160
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