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Introduction to Songs of Innocence by William Blake

IntroSongsOfInnocenceToday I read William Blake’s “Introduction” to the Songs of Innocence. It’s a short, beautiful poem that evokes pastoral images and happiness in its simplicity.

In this poem, Blake is the piper and his idyllic music is symbolic of the poems contained in the Songs of Innocence. But there are some interesting things going on in this poem that warrant a closer look.

In the first stanza, Blake meets the child. Now there is some ambiguity in the line: “On a cloud I saw a child.” It’s not clear whether the child is on the cloud, or if the piper is on the cloud. Likely, it was intended to be both. Blake, while losing himself in the transcendent bliss of his songs, finds himself floating as upon a cloud. Also, the image of a child upon a cloud is likely Christ. I personally feel that both interpretations are correct and that this was intentional on the part of the writer.

I also find the last two stanzas to be very interesting:

Piper sit thee down and write
In a book that all may read— 
So he vanish’d from my sight. 
And I pluck’d a hollow reed. 
And I made a rural pen,
And I stain’d the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs
Every child may joy to hear

Blake’s poems in this book are all illustrated, as shown in the image above. In the last two stanzas, he describes how he fashioned a pen from a reed and added dye to water. These are the tools he used to create the illustrated poems, decorated using watercolors.

William Blake is one of my favorite poets, and this is another example of why. He created beautiful, simple poems that still inspire and cause one to contemplate.

Click here to read the poem online.


Filed under Literature