Tag Archives: songs of experience

“The Ecchoing Green” by William Blake

EcchoingGreen“The Ecchoing Green” is one of Blake’s poems contained in the Songs of Innocence, which I find a little strange because I see this as a poem about the cycle of life and death. For that reason, it seems like a subject that he would have addressed in the Songs of Experience.

The Ecchoing Green

The sun does arise,
And make happy the skies;
The merry bells ring
To welcome the spring;
The skylark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around
To the bell’s cheerful sound,
While our sports shall be seen
On the Echoing Green.

Old John with white hair,
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk.
They laugh at our play,
And soon they all say:
‘Such, such were the joys
When we all, girls and boys,
In our youth time were seen
On the Echoing Green.’

Till the little ones, weary,
No more can be merry;
The sun does descend,
And our sports have an end.
Round the laps of their mothers
Many sisters and brother,
Like birds in their nest,
Are ready for rest,
And sport no more seen
On the darkening Green.

(Source: poemhunter.com)

I see the poem structured to represent the three stages of life. The first stanza represents childhood and includes imagery of the Sun rising, spring, birds, and playfulness. The second stanza is about maturity, where the older generation observes the young and remembers the innocence and joy of their early years.

Finally, the third stanza symbolizes death. Here we have imagery of the sun setting, of the games coming to an end. The metaphor of being “ready for rest” evokes a weariness with life, that one is preparing for the final sleep. Also, the symbol of the “darkening Green” conjures images of grass covering a grave and contrasts with the Ecchoing Green which is growing and echoes the lives of people who lived before us.

As with so many of Blake’s poems, they seem simple on the surface, but as you look closer, you discover a depth that is not always apparent. Feel free to share your thoughts and impressions. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Cheers!

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“EARTH’s Answer” by William Blake

EarthsAnswerIn my last post I talked about the “Introduction to the Songs of Experience.” Today I want to talk about the follow-up poem: “EARTH’s Answer.” In the Introduction, the Bard beckons the Goddess, symbolized by the Earth, to awaken and take her rightful place upon the starry throne.

The opening stanza depicts the Earth as ancient and dying. There is a sense that the Earth has been abused and subjugated, and is nearing the end of her existence.

Earth rais’d up her head, 
From the darkness dread & drear.
Her light fled: 
Stony dread!
And her locks cover’d with grey despair.

In the next two stanzas, we hear the voice of the Earth Goddess. She describes god as being jealous and fearful, and that these are the reasons for her imprisonment and suffering. Blake is thereby asserting that fear and jealousy are the primary causes of hatred and oppression.

The fourth stanza is composed of a series of questions.

Does spring hide its joy
When buds and blossoms grow?
Does the sower? 
Sow by night? 
Or the plowman in darkness plow?

My first impression of this stanza is that Blake is associating the Earth Goddess with the Persephone myth. But as I thought about this more, I began to see this as a criticism against the godhead as the Creator. It appears that the Earth feels that god is somehow ashamed of the Earth and wants to hide the divine nature in a shroud of darkness, and she is wondering why. If the Earth is the paragon of beauty and creation, why would god hide that divine nature instead of rejoicing in it?

The last thing I would like to look at is Blake’s illustration that encompasses the poem (see illustration). There is a circle formed around the poem that contains a vine and a snake. This almost gives the impression of an ouroboros. I find this very significant, especially since the snake is a symbol of knowledge and the shedding of one’s outer skin. The ouroboros is also a symbol of rebirth and regeneration, representing the need for the Earth to renew herself.

I find all of Blake’s poems to be infinitely fascinating and this one is especially interesting. I realized that when I first read this poem many years ago, I missed a lot of the symbolism. I suspect that when I read it again, maybe 20 years from now, I will uncover new symbolism woven into the text. That is what makes Blake’s poems so great, for me anyway.

Click here to read the poem online.

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Introduction to Songs of Experience by William Blake

IntroSongsOfExperienceI recently wrote about Blake’s “Introduction to the Songs of Innocence” (click here to read that post). The “Introduction to the Songs of Experience” serves as a contrast, where one leaves the Edenic childlike state and moves into the realm of knowledge, along with the associated pain and suffering.

The opening stanza establishes the idea of the poet as a mystic, one who is visionary and understands the transcendent power of poetry. Blake points out that the Bard has heard the “Holy Word,” which means that he understands the power that words have in the act of creation.

Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future sees 
Whose ears have heard, 
The Holy Word,
That walk’d among the ancient trees.

The second stanza addresses humanity in its fallen state. Mankind was banished from Eden as a result of its desire to know and become godlike. The fall is also symbolic of what happens to people on an individual level. Once a person becomes aware of mortality, the carefree innocence of childhood is lost forever.

Calling the lapsed Soul 
And weeping in the evening dew: 
That might controll, 
The starry pole; 
And fallen fallen light renew!

There is an interesting shift in the third stanza. The Bard is no longer addressing humanity in its fallen state, but is addressing the Earth. The Earth here is a representation of the Divine Feminine, which appears to be in a state of hibernation. This is likely the result of patriarchal religious beliefs that state that the Earth must be subjugated. Now the Bard beckons the Earth Goddess to awaken and renew herself.

O Earth O Earth return!
Arise from out the dewy grass;
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumberous mass.

There is some ambiguity in the fourth and final stanza. Blake seems to be addressing both humanity again as well as the Earth. Depending upon how you interpret the Bard’s audience affects the symbolism. If the Bard is addressing humanity, then he is calling on people to recognize their spiritual connection to the Earth and to deny it no longer; if addressing the Earth, he is summoning the Divine Feminine to restore herself beside her masculine counterpart upon the starry throne. I personally feel that both interpretations are correct.

Turn away no more: 
Why wilt thou turn away 
The starry floor 
The watry shore
Is giv’n thee till the break of day.

This is a very powerful and mystical poem, and the closer you read it, the more you will find there. Blake’s next poem in the Songs of Experience is “EARTH’s Answer,” where the Goddess responds to the Bard. You can probably guess what my next post will be about.

Click here to read “Introduction to the Songs of Experience” online.

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