You are on page 1of 3

Blakes use of symbolism.

Blake is a solitary figure, the great practitioner of symbolism in the entire horizon
of English literature and the beauty of his works is per-excellence. He is second to
none, not even to the celebrated French symbolists. Almost every other word in his
poems is symbolic. A symbol is an object which stands for something else as it
literally means as dove symbolizes peace. Similarly, Blakes tiger symbolizes
creative energy; Shelleys wind symbolizes inspiration. Blakes symbols usually have
a wide range of meaning and significance. He uses symbol in his poem to transfer a
sense of consciousness to the reader and this device suits his purpose. He uses this
method mostly in both the series, Songs of innocence and Songs of experience.
There is scarcely any poem in Songs of Innocence and of Experience
which does not have a symbolic or allegorical of allusive implications. Though these
poems are rendered in the simplest possible language they also have unfathomable
meaning. As in the poem A Cradle Song:

sleep, happy child,

All creation slept and smiled;
Sleep, sleep, happy sleep,
While oer thee thy mother weep

The language of these poems is somewhat scriptural simple

and profound at the same time. The Biblical allusions at prodigious
significance to his poems, for example The Shepherd commemorates Christ
as the Good Shepherd. And the whole poem is set in a pastoral background:
How sweet is the shepherds sweet lot
From the morn to the evening he strays;
He shall follow his Sheep all the day
And his tongue shall be filled with praise
Furthermore, Blake makes use of Biblical phrases too, as we see in the poem The
I a child and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name
Christ is the lamb and figuratively, we often called the child a lamb.

Blake in his letter to Thomas butt says: Allegory is addressed to the

intellectual powers, while it is altogether hidden from the corporal.
Understanding is my Definition of the Most Sublime poetry.What Blake
describes in his poems are not actual events as ordinary men see and
understand them, but spiritual events which have to be stated symbolically

in order that they may be intelligible. As C.M Bowra said In Songs of

Experience, he often uses symbols of his own making. And his meaning is
thus more elusive. Indeed, some poems in this section are fully understood
only by Reference to symbols which Blake uses in his prophetic books, and
since the meaning of most symbols tends to inconstant, there is always a
danger that we may make his meaning more emphatic or more exact than it
is, especially since, as Blake grew older, he developed his symbols, and by
placing them in precise contexts gave them a greater definiteness.
Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright
In the forest of the night,
What immortal or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In Songs of Innocence, Blake weaves the texture of the poems with the warp
and woof of symbolism and pictorial beauty. In his poems the lamb is a
symbol of the Lamb of god that taketh away the sin of the world. The
Echoing Green is not merely the depiction of a merry day; it is a symbolic
presentation of the Day of Innocence from sunrise to sunset. Infant joy ,
the Little Black Boy and Laughing Song symbolizes the three ages of
Innocence infancy, childhood and youth. A cradle Song, nurses Song
and Holy Thursday are symbolic of the same three ages of man, and the
remaining poems , which image the human soul in its quest of selfrealization, are all of even deeper symbolic import.
In Songs of Experience, traditional symbols are given different connotations.
Thus, by the Sunflower Blake represents the yearning of youth for freedom in
love. The lily connotes the purity of love and also naturalness and open
heartedness in love without the need of secrecy. Unlike the traditional
significance of the rose Blakes Sick Rose is the symbol of mysterious evil
that attacks the human heart. The Tyger is antitype of the lamb of
innocence. It represents the violent and energetic aspect of human soul. In
the two poems The Little Girl Lost and The little Girl Found which tell the
story of Lyca, wild beasts like leopards, tigers and lions symbolize the human
passion or energies.
In the poem London oppression and tyranny are symbolized by the
king(who is responsible for the soldiers blood being shed), social institutions
like loveless marriage and the mind-forged manacles. In a Little boy Lost,
the priest who is responsible for the burning of the child symbolizes the cruel
thoughtless unimaginative authority of the Church. The Priest acts in the
name of the mystery which here , as also in the Human Abstract,
symbolizes institutional religion.

Likewise, The garden of Love and A Poison Tree are two allegories dealing
with different subjects. The Garden of Love censures the under curbs placed
by conventional religion on tender human emotions such as love. In this
poem, the tombstone and graves stands for death, the priests stands for the
authorities of conventional religion , the garden epitomized love and thou
shall not symbolizes the rigorous codes of orthodox religion that rules out
love and sex
In the world of Experience, Urizen dominates at large. He is Blakes symbol
for all that is negative, such as reason, cruelty, jealousy and hypocrisy.
Though he does not mention Urizen anywhere in Songs of experience we can
feel his presence in the poem called Earths Answer where he is mentioned
as Starry Jealousy and Cruel, jealous selfish fear. He keeps the earth
bound in oppressive measures, chains her, imprisons and guards over her. In
The School boy it is the school teacher who symbolizes undue authority,
with the result that
Under a cruel eye outworn
The little one spends the day
In singing and dismay.
From the above we can say that symbolism plays an important role. The use of
symbolism in Blakes poem is not to be neglected. Without symbols, these poems
could not have been rendered. The use of symbols recurring in various poems, help
to club the poems of Songs of Innocence and of Experience into unity. Therefore it is
the ingenuity of Blake who wrote such wonderful symbolic poem