“The Angel” by William Blake


I dreamt a dream! What can it mean?
And that I was a maiden Queen
Guarded by an Angel mild:
Witless woe was ne’er beguiled!

And I wept both night and day,
And he wiped my tears away;
And I wept both day and night,
And hid from him my heart’s delight.

So he took his wings, and fled;
Then the morn blushed rosy red.
I dried my tears, and armed my fears
With ten thousand shields and spears.

Soon my Angel came again;
I was armed, he came in vain;
For the time of youth was fled,
And grey hairs were on my head.

This is a very complicated poem, although it seems simple on the surface. Upon first reading, I interpreted the poem as an allegory about a young woman who is filled with fear as a child. As a result, the angel who watched over her left and in adulthood, the woman turns to anger and cynicism as a defense. When the angel returns, the woman is old and nearing death, and although she had armed herself against her fears, there was one fear which she could never protect herself from—the fear of dying. While this is a valid interpretation of the poem, I see other symbolism hidden deeper in the text.

The poem describes a dream in which the dreamer envisions himself as the Queen. I see the Queen as symbolic of the unconscious mind, or the Jungian anima. As the dreamer taps into his unconscious mind, he must confront his deepest fears. It almost seems that there is an internal war between his two consciousnesses.

The Queen also appears to be a reference to the triple goddess. She is presented in the three aspects: Maiden, Mother, and Crone. As the Maiden, she weeps from childhood fear. As Mother, we see that the “morn blushed rosy red,” implying that she has reached the stage of maturity when she is menstruating and ready to bear children. Finally, as Crone, her youth has passed and the grey hairs of wisdom now crown her.

The poems in Songs of Innocence and Experience are all more complex than they appear at first. That is the magnificence of these poems. If you notice symbolism that I missed, please share in the comment space. Thanks for visiting!


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6 responses to ““The Angel” by William Blake

  1. Challenge, accepted. 🙂 To me this is an amazingly beautiful poem. I think you can see it as a poem on Animus and a psychological development of a woman. In the first stanza she is the Queen, a fully blossomed woman, but something goes wrong in her development and she is not able to bond with her Animus represented by the angel. She hides her love and he leaves her. She continues denying her feelings, becoming hardened and cold. She shuts herself off as if, her libido stops flowing and she grows old fast and inevitably. Obviously, I may be wrong in my interpretation but hey at least I had a go.

    • Hi Monika. Great interpretation! I can totally see it. You have added a whole other dimension to this poem. Thanks so much for sharing your keen insights. Wishing you all the best.

      — Jeff

  2. The more I read Blake the more dark his innocence poems seem. Or is this the experience side of the coin? What do you make of “Witness woe was never beguiled”?

  3. Hi, I am using this poem in an English assignment. Please could you let me know if I am on the right track with regards to interpenetration.

    The speaker is dreaming he is a maiden Queen (could this represent his innocence and vulnerability as a young child).
    The maiden Queen is protected by an Angel (just as a mother or father cares for their child, therefore angel could be a parental figure).
    Then the tone changes to somber in the last line of the first stanza (could this show how the child/Queen could be seeking attention therefore acting?)

    – Is the speaker still the maiden Queen in the next three stanzas?

    The second stanza continues with sadness, however now it is genuine, the Queen is sad and the angel is comforting her (the speaker is a child and therefore needs attention just as a child still needs affection and love from their parents).
    The last line contradicts the previous lines because the angel was needed to support the speaker but the speaker is now stating that he hid his happiness from the angel (this part is slightly confusing… any suggestions)

    The “morn” referrers to a new day ie. morning (could this be symbolic of new beginnings, because the angel has now left the speaker has begun a new chapter of his life?)
    The speaker wiped away his own tears (angel has gone… does this mean the speaker has aged?)
    Blake says that the speaker is armed with weapons… could this mean that these are meant to protect the speaker from his fears?

    The angel comes back in the last stanza (angel are associated with heaven… could I say that the angel is coming to take the speaker to heaven?)
    The last two lines in the fourth stanza show that time has passed… the speaker’s youth has passed.

    – Sorry that is a lot to read! Any suggestions or improvements?

    • Oh gosh. As I reread this, I see it in a whole new light, much more in line with the comment by Symbol Reader (refer to that). Most of Blake’s poems in this collection are about the loss of childhood innocence, generally through sexual experience. Maybe the Maiden (virgin) Queen is no longer a maiden, hence the Angel no longer guards her and she must face the world on her own. Sorry, probably not much help. Good luck on your assignment.