DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
ST. ANDREW’S COLLEGE OF ARTS, SCIENCE AND COMMERCE
This paper explores William Blake’s representation of adults, and their relationship with the children in his reputed work, Songs of Innocence and of Experience. The author infers that Blake’s juxtaposition of the two kinds of adults, the benevolent and the harsh, gives credence to his belief that their ability or inability to empathise with little children stems from their own childhood experiences. However, the Songs belie a direct and simplistic correlation between one’s childhood and adulthood: in poems like “The Chimney Sweeper” and “The Little Black Boy”, Blake suggests that if little children can display traits like love and forgiveness despite having no prior experience of them, then the indifferent adults in the collection have no excuse for their behaviour. In addition to parents and guardians, Blake also attacks the church (priests in particular) and the education system for aggravating the misery of children. In a world in which the institutions of the family, the church and the school deny children the right to be free and happy, it is the poet who comes to their rescue in his role as a prophet of sorts, and appeals to the ‘lapsed souls’ to treat children as the divine creatures he believed them to be.
Keywords: Adults, benevolent, harsh, children, ‘poet-prophet’