The existence in the hands of adult

The Image of the Child as a Gate to Blake’s andWordsworth PoemsSymbols werealways a great part of the Romantic poetry and William Blake was one of thesymbolic poets. His poems include numerous symbols and allusions. Parallelly,in the compile of Songs of Innocenceand in the Songs of Experience poems,he uses the image of the child to express his ideas. His ideas are reflectedhis poems with the child figure and the child is used to express Blake’s viewof innocence and soul’s perfect existence in the Songs of Innocence. On the other hand, Blake saw modern society asa cause for the destruction of innocence and loss of vision. In Blake’sperspective, these create possibilities for us to see the traces of God and theygive us a capacity for imagination. He mentioned about how children lost theirpure existence in the hands of adult world (by criticizing the church andparents in this aspect) by referring problems of the era that he lived.

Inorder to express his ideas, Blake used the image of the child in his poems. Theother symbolic poet William Wordsworth mentions about life on earth as a dimshadow of initial and purer existence, he believes this can only be rememberedin childhood and then forgotten in the process of growing up. Like Blake, Wordsworthalso adopted the image of the child to call back for a genuine existence. Ibelieve, examining Blake’s poems and Wordsworth’s The Immortality Ode are useful to comprehend soul’s perfectexistence with the child image and how the modern world’s brutal side forces usto forget our innocence and also our creative imagination that comes naturallywhen we born. In this essay, I will examine the image of the child through someof the William Blake’s poems from Songsof Innocence and the Songs of Experience,and with the Wordsworth’s The Immortality Ode by touching upon thesimilarities and differences.             In the Songsof Innocence, we can see how Blake used the image of the child to expresshis views on both the subjects of innocence and the soul’s perfect existence. Blakeused the child image as treated in the romantic concept. As Benziman stated “Therewas a two major and rival conceptions of childhood in the late eighteenthcentury”(167), one is “the earlier approach which based on the belief in theoriginal sin and tended to regard children as morally inferior; the second moreinnovative approach to children, largely shaped by the sensibilities of romanticwriters, was liberating and emphatic, it upheld the idea that children weremorally innocent and treated the child’s subjectivity as valuable, fascinatingand profound” (167).

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Blake, as a romantic poet believed in children’s moralsuperiority and its power of creative imagination. In the poem The Lamb, Blake gives an explanation ofthe origins of man with an image of the child questioning the lamb: “LittleLamb who made thee?” (1). And the child gives us an explanation of thisquestion. This power is so great that it gives us a ‘tender voice’ (7),’clothing of delight’ (5), ‘life’ (3) and most importantly ‘rejoice’ (8). Thechild answers this with: “He calls himself a Lamb” (14). The Lamb is similar tolamb and also a child: “He is meek & he is mild, / He became a littlechild: /I a child & thou a lamb” (15-17). According to these linesreferring to the child, s/he is carrying belongings of this greater power andthis power can be understood as God. These lines reveal that Blake tried toconvey his idea about our origins with the child image as he believes that thechild has a shared characteristic with the god and the child can see the divinepower because of his innocence.

Thus, the child image symbolizes soul’s perfectexistence. This power is also the source of the creative imagination. As a childcan see the world different because of his innocence, he has the capacity to interpretthe things differently. As Benziman suggested: “Blake and Wordsworth’s poemssuggest that the child’s stance is both morally superior and artisticallyproductive” (168). In the poem InfantJoy, one can see why Blake related the child image with creativeimagination. “I happy am /Joy is my name” (4-5) from these lines, it canbe seen that the child has a potential for joy. “Thou dost smile. /I sing the while /Sweet joy befall thee” (10-12).

 Wecan see the child’s potential for joy. This poem emphasizes Blake’s idea of’natural child’. Blake thinks the natural child as a core of man’s spirit andthis potential of playing and being joyful is where the roots of imaginationcome from. In the Songs of Experience poems, we can seethe loss of this creative capacity and also child’s innocence in the hands of theadult world in the maturity stage.

Blake criticized the era and itsinstitutions that he lived because of the labour imposed upon beginning at theearly age. Thus many scholars saw Blake as a fiery advocate for the rights ofman against the religious and political constructs (Maksidi 3). In his poem Chimney Sweeper, one can see this. Thispoem reflects children have no option but work; first because of his parents”my father sold me while yet my tongue /Could scarcely cry” (1-2),secondly church and lastly government “And are gone to praise God and hisPriest and King, /Who make up a heaven of our misery” (11-12).  Benziman suggest that “Blake’s poetry rebelsagainst what he sees as the chains of social institutions and prejudice bindinghuman spirit” (169).

All these institutions and parents abuse the child. Blake indicates,”And because I am happy and dance and sing, /They think they have done meno injury” (9-10). Although the children participate in happy activities, theyare not genuinely happy unlike other intuitions and families think. Theiractions without a meaning create a wasting situation of the child’s abilities. Theenergy and capacity that the child has and which are necessary for imagination arewasted. The child is seen morally superior because unlike the church officials,his sentences are innocent, instant and they present real feelings. (Benziman172).

 Because of the institutions’misinterpretations of happiness, they made children think of as if, if only childrenserve them, s/he can be happy. Thus, both the talent to be able to see thereflection of the God and the capacity for imagination are being to disappearin time.As it is mentioned in the previous paragraph, Wordsworthputs his focus into the child image like Blake as well. As Benziman stated: “Thecentrality of childhood in Wordsworth’s poetry is unquestionable” (Benziman177).  The central piece for both of thepoets was the image of the child. However, in certain aspects, Blake and Wordsworthdiffered from one another. They might agree on the loss of innocence and theloss of creative imagination yet they do not agree on who to blame.

While Blakeclearly accuses the institutional and familial neglect; Wordsworth escapes fromreality takes shelter into an introspection of the child’s interiority. Thischange is followed by hiding and denial of neglect (Benziman 168). Wordsworthbelieved the pure existence of child contrary to the earlier approach whichstigmatizes child as morally lower with the original sin belief like Blake did.

  In the Intimationsof Immortality Ode, he isquestioning how his pure existence is lost and shares his grief by creatingmonologues of his past, remembering his childhood. In fact, the message thatthe child has an intimate connection with God is given in the prologue with thewords: “The Child is Father of the Man; /And I could wish my days to be/ boundeach to each by natural piety”. It is important to know that because one canfeel intimated to God through nature which Wordsworth calls ‘visionary gleam’.This ‘visionary gleam’ is the thing that we had in childhood. As we grow up, welost our affinity with nature, and also with God as a consequence of these; atthe end, we lost our visionary gleam and also our creative imagination.

In thefirst stanza, he tells that: “There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream” (1)as this line refers to his past then he continues to describe how he felt: “Theearth, and every common sight,/ To me did seem/ Apparelled in celestial light,”(2-4) these lines refer to his childhood and the time when every ordinary thingseems eternal to him. Childhood sustains ‘celestial light’ and with its visionchild is able to interpret the ordinary things differently. To be able to seethe ordinary things differently requires a deep imagination and this provesthat childhood is a state that was we had a creative imagination.            As we can observe in Blake’s poems,we can also notice in the Wordsworth’s poems that how the child has lost hisvision. But the difference is Blake allows the child to speak on the first person.Benziman asserts that Wordsworth differs from Blake in the aspect of allowingthe child to communicate in the first person (178).

Blake applies the image ofthe child to himself and he expresses his experiences with spots from hischildhood. In Wordsworth’s Ode, we cannot listen to the child himself, we canonly listen to narrator’s childhood experiences from his adult’s voice.Wordsworth reflects his adult period as a period which his vision is in thepoint of decay. The stage when the child grows up is nothing but to fall much deeperinto the prison house and becoming dwindle down divine (Lincoln 220). In the stanza seven, he says that life is nothing but animitation process: “Somefragment from his dream of human life, /Shaped by himself withnewly-learn{e}d art” (91-92) Following these lines Wordsworth tries to emphasize the truthabout life one more time as he once again presents the life as an imitation: “Asif his whole vocation /Were endless imitation”(106-107). And then the following lines refer howhe lost his vision related to this: “The glory and the freshness of a dream. /It is not now as it hath been of yore:” (5-6). He emphasizes that nature is still being there for him, in order toprovide an ability to see the earth.

He reminds himself that there are still childrenplaying outside among the flowers, with the words in stanza two: “This sweetMay-morning,/ and the children are culling/ On every side” (44-47). But hestill does not see the earth like he saw in his childhood, he questions: “Whitheris fled the visionary gleam? /Where is it now, the glory and the dream?” (56-57).He misses something. He understands that something has changed thus he blamesmaterialistic things on the earth which blindfolded our vision and caused the disappearanceof the glory of childhood. “Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;/Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind” (77-78). The earth is personifiedhere like a trapper who has her unique treasures. And in the following lines: “Tomake her Foster-child, her Inmate Man, /Forget the glories he hathknown, /And that imperial palace whence he came” (82-84), we learn thatwith these treasures she tries to make us forget the glories and where we camefrom which is the ‘imperial palace’.

So, Wordsworth uses metaphorical languageto express his ideas which he believes in “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: /The Soulthat rises with us, our life’s Star, /Hath had elsewhere it’s setting” (58-59). According to Wordsworth before we were born, we had a life on the heavenand only in the childhood we can recall these memories because as the time passearth makes us forget. Thus, he makes a connection with the ‘imperial palace’which is where we came from, and the memories that we have in there can only beremembered in the childhood.

As a part of our childhood, ‘imperial palace’ is relatedto pure existence.  Wordsworth acceptschildhood as a blessed condition like Blake. He calls childhood as ‘mightyprophet’.

He believes, his childhood memories will always guide him in thejourney of innocence and he sees them as a medium that may lead him to his lostinstincts.            To conclude,Blake’s several poems and Wordsworth’s TheImmortality Ode is examined in this essay. Blake’s The Lamb poem is used to give an answer to the origins of humanmind. The characteristics of the lamb in the poem show similarities with ahigher power. Their similar characteristics build a connection between two. Consideringthe lamb as a child and the divine power as the God provides a betterunderstanding of the power of the child.

To conclude from here, it isunderstood that child can see and reflect the traces of God in life. Also, thepoem of Blake Infant Joy is used toshow how the child image is related to the capacity for creative imagination. This idea comes from Blake’s ‘natural child’ idea. Hebelieved that a child has a capacity for joy and play and these are core requirementsfor the creative imagination. Besides, the Songs of Experience poems refer to howchild’s innocence and capacity for creative imagination is corrupted byinstitutions. On the other hand, Wordsworth’s The Immortality Ode is examined.

Wordsworth used the child imagefor the same reasons like Blake. He advocated child’s superiority both morallyand imaginatively. However, the difference is Wordsworth brings child’sinteriority to the forefront and he did not put the child’s voice first-handunlike Blake did.

Wordsworth saw a tendency to materialization in this world whichblinds our ‘visionary gleam’ that comes from the ‘imperial palace’ when weborn. While we can still remember where we come from in the childhood, in the maturitywe lose this vision and as a consequence this, we lose our creativeimagination.       Works CitedBenziman, G. “TwoPatterns of Child Neglect: Blake and Wordsworth.” Partial Answers:Journal of Literature and the History of Ideas, vol.

5 no. 2, 2007, pp.167-197.          Blake,William. “Infant Joy.” The Norton AnthologyEnglish Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, 9thed,W. W.

Norton & Company, 2012, pp. 123.Blake,William.

“The Chimney Sweeper.” The NortonAnthology English Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt,  9thed,W. W.

Norton & Company, 2012, pp. 128.Blake,William. “The Lamb.” The Norton AnthologyEnglish Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt,  9thed,W. W.

Norton & Company, 2012, pp. 120.Lincoln, Kenneth R. “Wordsworth’s Mortality Ode.” The Journal ofEnglish and Germanic Philology, vol. 71, no. 2, 1972,pp.

211–225.Makdisi,Saree. William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s.Chicago: Universtiy of Chicago Press, 2003. Print.Wordsworth,William. “Ode: Intimation of Immortality fro Recallections of Early Childhood.

“The Norton Anthology English Literature,edited by Stephen Greenblatt,  9thed,W. W. Norton & Company, 2012, pp.



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