Compare and Contrast Blake’s use of style in the poems ‘The Tyger’, ‘London’ and ‘The Sick Rose’. Describe how these poems reflect his attitude towards eighteenth century Britain.
William Blake was brought up by a rebellious family. His family disagreed with the ways of the church. This led him to believe certain things about the Church of England. He was convinced that the church was corrupt with the ways they controlled people’s thoughts. Always preying instead of sorting out the problems in society. Blake didn’t agree with any sort of authority and ways which people were given rules and orders to follow. Blake’s views were that the church had a lot to do with evil and death they pretended to care about helping others, and their prayers were just an excuse for seeing to the much needed attention of society. Although Blake had much disliking for the church it didn’t stop him from reading the Bible.
Blake also hated the ways in which society was run. He saw how the young were exploited by society. Young children were forced in to work to do jobs like chimney sweeps. The young women had to become prostitutes in order to make a living. The young men would have to join the army and fight. Blake was writing his poetry in the time of the Industrial Revolution. He saw the Industrial Revolution as a set of rules, which stopped people thinking and chained them to a routine. Blake hated anything conventional. He did not like the way the new factories were being pushed into people’s lives. This way of working was repetitive this led to limited imaginations.
In this essay I will examine the three poems by William Blake, taken from his anthology ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience.’ I will be looking at ‘The Tyger’, ‘London’ and ‘The Sick Rose’. Similarities and differences will be used to compare and explore the terms and views, which Blake gives in his poems. I will be concentrating on images of darkness, innocence and restriction. I shall also look at Blake’s style and stricture of his poems, which includes his use of rhythm.
The three poems are alike in the way, which Blake represents his poems connected to the night. The ‘Tyger’ is represented by wandering through the ‘forests of the night’. The ‘worm’ ‘flies through the night in the howling storm’. The ‘harlot’ also carries out her amour by night in the ‘midnight streets’. By this Blake appears to be hinting that the night hides certain harmful powers, which aren’t sometimes indisputable in public.
The night portrays darkness and Blake utilises different images to identify the colour black to disclose his jaundiced disposition towards eighteenth century society. In ‘London’, for instance, the church is associated to darkness and the situation of the chimney sweep:
” How the chimney-sweeper’s cry”
“Every black’ning church appals”
By this Blake is implying that the church is ignorant to the actual pain that the young and harmless are being put through. As stated by Blake, the church simply feigned to be interested using prayer. They also do not represent an affectionate God, but are associated with death.
In Blake’s ‘The Sick Rose’ he uses ‘the invisible worm’ to give an impression of evil or an uncontrollable force.
Although Blake uses many images of darkness, they are all intended to get across the message that dark is being associated with the evil acts of society.
The three poems also show innocence with different images. One image of innocence from ‘The Tyger’ is:
‘Did he who made the lamb make thee?
By this, Blake is questioning how could someone create an innocent lamb and then go on to make a predator like the ‘Tyger’. Another image of innocence from ‘the Tyger’ is ‘when thy heart began to beat’ this is representing creation of the Tyger, how it couldn’t be evil or destructive because it is the start of new life.
There are plenty of images of innocence in Blake’s poem ‘London’. One of these is ‘in every infant’s cry of fear’. This is referring to how Blake saw young children being exploited by society, this is also related to Blake’s images of evil. The chimneysweeper’s cry is an innocent image, as the chimney sweeps were young children forced into labour. The newborn infants tear is representing how newborn babies were born to prostitutes. They would have a harsh life, with a poor upbringing. Blake didn’t agree with the idea of corrupting children at an early age. The infant would have to make it’s own way in life with no support. In Blake’s poem, ‘The Sick Rose’. The name ‘The Sick Rose’ is an innocent image. Blake may have used this, as a sick rose poses no threat. It is a week and delicate picture.
Blake’s different images of innocence are used to show how he felt towards innocent young children that were forced into labour at an early age. They were corrupted by the evils of society.
These three poems also show images of restriction. In Blake’s ‘The Tyger’, ‘what the hammer’, ‘what the chain’, ‘furnace’ and ‘anvil’ are all words used by Blake to show how industry was restricting people’s thought and actions. The word ‘chain’ is relating to how people were chained to their jobs, and had to stick to their tasks. The image of the tyger’s stripes could be showing bars on a cage.
London has plenty of images of restriction and limitation. Blake has done this by using the word ‘charter’d’. This may be done to try and show that the government owns everything. Nothing belongs to no one, and people don’t have their freedom. Blake applies the words ‘mind forg’d manacles’ to relate to the way people had of thinking. They had restriction of the ‘mind’ that stopped freedom of thought; the church mainly made this up. The ‘chimneysweeper’ is an image of restriction because chimneysweepers were made to do their jobs and did not have a choice about it.
Blake has also used images of restriction in his poem ‘ The Sick Rose’ the words ‘dark secret love’ are there to show that the love may be between the Rose and the Worm has to be kept a ‘secret’. This restricts from some freedom of speech by the fact that a secret can’t be told to anyone. The ‘howling storm’ is another image of restriction. Normally a storm stops you from going out because of the danger. This could be the hidden meaning of the restriction behind it.
These images of restriction could have been used to show Blake’s attitude towards the industrial revolution. Blake didn’t like the use of machines to do the jobs with people just being there to check them and keep watch. This type of job was very repetitive. It stopped individuality and independent thinking.
The formation of ‘The Tyger’ is analogous to that of ‘London’. The lines are formed of 3 1/2 – 4 metres, however the rhythm in ‘The Tyger’ appears to be more spasmodic. The rhythm is transposed to point out the rhetorical questions.
‘Did he who made the lamb make thee?’
This conveys the poet’s scepticism concerning the formation of two dissimilar creatures. Blake also transposes the rhythm in the beginning lines:
‘Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright’
Blake wants the foremost line to have an impression on the reader.
I his poem ‘London’ the majority of the lines follow a regular iambic rhythm. These lines are constructed in the form of iambic tetrameter. Blake then reverses this rhythm in certain lines to trochaic tetrameter. This is done to pull the readers attention towards them. For example all the lines in the third verse are in trochaic tetrameter. Here Blake is pointing out how the church is related to the plight of the chimney sweep.
‘The Sick Rose’ has a slightly different layout; there are shorter line lengths and just two verses. Blake has used a regular rhythm because it sticks to one particular thought from start to finish of the poem; consequently it doesn’t need to pull our deliberation to something else.
Blake utilises his different and contrasting images of darkness, innocence and restriction, but they all appear to be linked in someway and impart a similar idea. Darkness symbolises evil or the dark side of society, which is inflicted on to the harmless. The images of restriction additionally work in a comparable way, catching the weak and exposed member of society.
Blake reverses the rhythm in numerous lines of his poems to attract our attention to certain images and to a few of contradictory demeanours of eighteenth century Britain.