Sunday, June 02, 2013


The title pages for the individual books of Songs Innocence & of Experience introduce pictorially the contrast between the two states of the soul. Innocence will portray a relaxed state where there is not threat to the world of mothers and children, trees, birds and fruit. Experience will involve death, grief, sexual division. The bereaved pair of Experience may be the same two who enjoyed the attentive care of the mother on the title page of Innocence. The profile of the deceased woman on the title page of Experience resembles that of the mother on the earlier plate.
Blake uses a more graceful, less rigid font for the lettering of Innocence. His setting is in the open for Innocence; within a formal interior for Experience. The gentle protected world of Innocence has been exchanged for an acquaintance with harsh circumstances in Experience. 

British Museum Songs of Innocence
Title Page
Copy A 
British Museum Songs of Experience
Title Page
Copy A

Northrop Frye in Fearful Symmetry points us in the direction of beginning to understand the relationship between innocence and experience when on page 238 he states:
"The irony suggested by the contrast of the two states of innocence and experience is deepened in the tragedy of Thel, the failure to overcome that contrast which is symbolized by all unborn forces of life, all sterile seeds, all the virginity that results from fear. The Book of Thel thus represents the failure to take the state of innocence into the state of experience."
Book of Thel, Plates 5 & 6, (E 6)
"Wilt thou O Queen enter my house. 'tis given thee to enter,
And to return; fear nothing. enter with thy virgin feet.

The eternal gates terrific porter lifted the northern bar:
Thel enter'd in & saw the secrets of the land unknown;
She saw the couches of the dead, & where the fibrous roots
Of every heart on earth infixes deep its restless twists:
A land of sorrows & of tears where never smile was seen."

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