I am including the poem here, since it is short.
Merry, merry sparrow!
Under leaves so green
A happy blossom
Sees you, swift as arrow,
Seek your cradle narrow,
Near my bosom.
Pretty, pretty robin!
Under leaves so green
A happy blossom
Hears you sobbing, sobbing,
Pretty, pretty robin,
Near my bosom.
Upon first reading, I got the sense of sexual symbolism here. I asked myself if I was maybe reading too much into the poem, but after reading it over a couple more times, the imagery became stronger and I definitely concluded that Blake was expressing sexuality, particularly the loss of virginity.
The blossom is a symbol of female genitalia. Nothing really new here. The flower has been an artistic representation for the vagina for as long as humans have created art. What did strike me, though, is that preceding each mention of the blossom, Blake writes “Under leaves so green.” At first glance, I thought he was saying that the birds were under the leaves, but not so. I believe that he is implying that the blossom is under the leaves go green, which leads me to see this more as symbolic of Eve’s first sexual experience in the Garden of Eden, where she covered her genitalia with a leaf after becoming sexually aware.
In the first stanza, the image of the sparrow and its comparison to an arrow seeking the “cradle narrow” represents the phallus entering the woman for the first time. Again, there is nothing remarkable here. The arrow is a fairly common phallic symbol.
Now for me, it’s the second stanza that gets interesting. We have a different bird here, the robin, and the bird is associated with sobbing. I thought about the robin and pictured the bird with the reddish patch on its belly. I concluded that the robin must symbolize either the blood that accompanies the loss of virginity (being deflowered) or menstruation. If the robin represents loss of virginity, then the sobbing is a result of being deflowered. If the robin represents menstruation, then the sobbing likely represents the sorrow of the woman realizing that she did not get pregnant. It’s also possible that Blake was expressing both.
As with so many of the poems in Songs of Innocence, this one appears simple on the surface, but becomes more complex the deeper you look. As always, feel free to share your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and reading.
9 responses to “Sexual Symbolism in “The Blossom” by William Blake”
This is a really interesting read (I say almost a year later!)
I was just reading ‘The Sick Rose’ and I see the sexual symbolism present in this song of experience as well
Thanks for your comment! I agree with your thoughts on the Sick Rose, too. The flower is fairly common sexual metaphor. Have a great day, and thanks for visiting my blog.
There has been some interpretation that the nature here is indifferent (as to whether the birds settle there or not) which represents the material world and materialistic principles with no real essence behind them. Do you have any perspective on this?
Hi Sarah. Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. I went back and reread the poem to see if I could get a sense of what you are asking about. At first I thought, “Maybe the green leaves represent money/materialism,” but since the association between green and money is strictly a modern US connection, I do not think it would have had any such meaning to Blake in that period. Also, if you look closely at the image, it has a young mother holding an infant. I think, and this is just my opinion, that Blake intended these metaphors to represent sexual relations.
Having said that, poetry is open to many interpretations, and there is no right or wrong, in my opinion. That is the beauty of symbols and metaphors–they can mean different things to different people.
Cheers — Jeff
This interpretation is brought by gradesaver.com. I don’t agree with that and I also do not agree with so strong an erotic reading of the poem. Romantics are marked for a sense of restraint. So don’t you think that reading Blake in such a way would be too advanced
Hi. Thanks for your comment.
No, I stand by my interpretation. I think the Romantics were not restrained and in fact were radical, embracing strong passionate emotions as that which makes us human. Example, “Sorrows of Young Werther,” considered by scholars to be one of the quintessential pieces of Romantic literature is all about an artist’s desire for love which he cannot consummate. Another example would be Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound” which is all about rebelling against the established authority.
Back to Blake, he viewed the states of innocence and experience as being delineated by events such as sex (loss of virginity). This was not a radical idea and has support in the Book of Genesis (remember Adam and Eve’s loss of innocence was marked by the awakening of their sexuality).
Anyway, I appreciate your questions and encourage you to question everything. Thanks again for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment.
You are very insightful, currently doing sexual poems in my English lit class- wondering if you had any suggestions?
Hello Bry. Thanks for your comment. Many of Blake’s poems from “Songs of Innocence and Experience” have sexual symbolism. Another good place to look is at Shakespeare’s sonnets. Here is one that has a bawdy sexual pun in there.
Hope that is helpful. Cheers!
My interpretation is that the robin is the baby (the natural result of the first stanza). The baby is “sobbing,” the baby is “near my bosom,” and despite the sobbing, the blossom is happy.