Saturday, June 08, 2013


Several of the poems in Songs on Innocence bear the same or similar names to poems in Songs of Experience. Two poems are named Nurse's Song with different spellings. These two poems open with the same line but move in different directions.

There are three voices in Nurse's Song of Innocence: the narrator, the nurse, and the children. The narrator observes the play of the children and responds with a sense of peace and security. The nurse predicts the coming of night and calls the children home. She relents and lets play continue until night falls. The children, thoughtless of the approach of night, enjoy their play and plead that it continue.

Childhood is a stage of development; it serves its purpose and comes to an end. The child does not disappear when the stage is complete; his qualities of energy, exuberance and security may go to sleep but retain an influence.

The nurse sets the rules for the child. However she allows the childish play to continue in response to the children's request. The innocent play of the children penetrates the scene, influencing the observer, the nurse and the whole environment.   

In the state of Innocence there is light and laughter, no thought of night disturbs the consciousness.

British Museum
Songs of Innocence & of Experience
Plate 14
Copy A
Songs of Innocence & of Experience, Song 24, (E 15)
"Nurse's Song            

When the voices of children are heard on the green
And laughing is heard on the hill, 
My heart is at rest within my breast
And every thing else is still

Then come home my children, the sun is gone down    
And the dews of night arise
Come come leave off play, and let us away
Till the morning appears in the skies

No no let us play, for it is yet day
And we cannot go to sleep           
Besides in the sky, the little birds fly   
And the hills are all coverd with sheep

Well well go & play till the light fades away
And then go home to bed
The little ones leaped & shouted & laugh'd  
And all the hills ecchoed" 

Luke 12 
[22] And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. 
[23] The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. 
[24] Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? 
[25] And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? 
[26] If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
[27] Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 
[28] If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? 
[29] And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. 
[30] For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.

The voices of the children are not alone in NURSES Song of Experience. Other darker voices arise in the mind reminding the speaker of regrets or fears. Perhaps the nurse is transferring her own anxiety to the children. The period of Innocence is seen to be wasted time. From the perspective of Experience, Innocence has been lost; now Experience must be the teacher.
British Museum
Songs of Innocence & of Experience
Plate 40
Copy A

Songs of Innocence & of Experience, Song 38, (E 23) 

When the voices of children, are heard on the green 
And whisprings are in the dale: 
The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind, 
My face turns green and pale. 

Then come home my children, the sun is gone down 
And the dews of night arise 
Your spring & your day, are wasted in play 
And your winter and night in disguise."

Four Zoas, Night II, Page 34-35, (E 324)
"Thus Enion wails from the dark deep, the golden heavens tremble

I am made to sow the thistle for wheat; the nettle for a nourishing dainty
I have planted a false oath in the earth, it has brought forth a poison tree
I have chosen the serpent for a councellor & the dog 
For a schoolmaster to my children
I have blotted out from light & living the dove & nightingale    
And I have caused the earth worm to beg from door to door
I have taught the thief a secret path into the house of the just
I have taught pale artifice to spread his nets upon the morning
My heavens are brass my earth is iron my moon a clod of clay
My sun a pestilence burning at noon & a vapour of death in night 

What is the price of Experience do men buy it for a song
Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath his house his wife his children
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy
And in the witherd field where the farmer plows for bread in vain"


Susan J. said...

Thank you so much for this, Ellie -- I feel sure that Khaled Hosseini had *both* poems in mind when he said he based the title of his new novel on Blake's "Nurse's Song" --
"And the Mountains Echoed."

Much love,


Susan J. said...

The older I get, the more I appreciate the two complementary "Songs of Innocence" and "Songs of Experience."

ellie said...

So glad you have recovered enough to comment.

I asked for Hosseini's new book at the library but found there were 110 ahead of me. However the audio tape should be available soon.

Also requested 'Kite Runner' which I want to see again.

Associating Innocence with 'taking no thought for the morrow' seems to give it a comfortable resting place.

Forever Friend,