Analysis of the Peculiarities and Use of Symbolism in William Blake's Poetry

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In all five of William Blake s poems there is a clear connection between the outward subjects and the deeper truths they express. The Tiger and The Lamb are actually about a wild and a tame animal, but are really about God’s power in creation or the power of the natural world and the nature of God as shown in Jesus. A Poison Tree and The Human Abstract seem to be about mysterious trees with dangerous fruit, but really tell of the “opposing states of the human soul”. In the Infant Sorrow the experience is about the birth of a child. In The Tiger and The Lamb the dispute takes the style of a conversation with the animal, to which many questions are asked, while A Poison Tree and The Human Abstract tell short stories.

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The main symbol in The Lamb, is the lamb, it symbolizes suffering innocence and Jesus Christ. In The Tiger, the Tiger symbolizes God’s power in creation. The Human Abstract is about a tree, which symbolizes the good and evil of the world. In the Infant Sorrow the evil symbol is the world and the good symbol is the mother s breast. In The Poison Tree the main symbol is the apple, which show the dark side of human nature.

In The Lamb and the Tiger, Blake uses symbolism to show the differences between the two, the tiger is fierce, active, predatory, while The Lamb is meek, vulnerable and harmless. The Tiger and The Lamb go well together, because in them, Blake examines different, almost opposite or contradictory, ideas about the natural world, its creatures and their Creator. Blake reminds The Lamb, and us, that the God, who made The Lamb, also is like The Lamb. As well as becoming a child Jesus became known as The Lamb of God: Jesus was crucified during the Feast of the Passover when lambs were slaughtered in the temple at Jerusalem. Blake sees the tiger as an evil creature and he questions himself about how somebody, God, can create a peaceful animal like the lamb but also create such a horrible creature like a tiger.

In Human Abstract and Poison Tree, Blake shows us how a tree can symbolize good and evil. A Poison Tree tells how anger can be dispelled by goodwill or nurtured to become a deadly poison. This is a terrible poem because it depicts with appalling honesty the hatred of which man is capable and the cunning with which we can conceal our anger. But with the Human Abstract the Blake is aware of the “Two Contrary States of the Human Soul” and the “Mystery” of the tree which “bears the fruit of deceit”, and in which the Raven, the omen of death, “his nest has made”. Blake’s argument becomes less clear, but a number of things are worthy of note: that “peace”, usually a good thing, may be the result of “mutual fear” and how in “The Human Abstract”, good things like “holy fears”, “tears” and “Humility”, are mixed up with wickedness – “mutual fear”, “the selfish loves” and “cruelty”. As in A Poison Tree there is attractive fruit, though we do not know who is to eat it. The “thickest shade”, where the “Raven” nests, suggests the secrecy and obscurity of the “Human Abstract” here described. The final stanza gives us the key to the poem: the “Gods” sought “in vain” in the natural world for such a tree, but the poet knows it is found “in the Human Brain” – that its existence is real, but metaphorical, rather than literal. The tree and its fruit suggest particularly the tree, in Genesis, of the knowledge of good and evil: as man has eaten the fruit of this tree, so he has gained this forbidden knowledge, which is particularly the subject of the poem’s first two stanzas.

The Infant Sorrow offers readers the chance to see the change that takes place, according to Blake, when a baby enters this world. The final decision: it is not a pleasant and peaceful entrance, rather, it is a cruel and corrupt world that an innocent youth is forced to enter. Stanza one begins with the quote, “My mother groaned!” This intense opening to the poem suggests that the mother may not have wanted the child or perhaps she is groaning for she knows the horrible evils of this world that the child will have to suffer. With the mother groaning and the father weeping, Blake paints a picture that includes a strong and dominant mother, perhaps because she is carrying the child. The father in this picture is the weaker of the two sexes who is quite unaware of what is to come. The second stanza switches scenes to “after the birth.” This stanza shows the first struggles that the baby has with life. Blake uses words such as, “striving,” “bound and weary” to create a struggle between innocence and experience. The stanza closes with the way in which the baby finds refuge amidst the chaos, “to sulk upon my mother’s breast.” Because the baby will soon get older, he will not have the breast to turn to. He will soon learn, just as his mother did, the way to survive in a cruel, cruel, world.

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