Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Critical essay or note on life as presented in William Blake’s poems particularly in the “Songs of Experience”.

The following essay provides a note on the poems of William Blake, particularly on “Songs of Experience”. Here the writer tries to show the life as presented in William Blake’s most noted “Songs of Experience”.

The world as depicted in the “Songs of Experience” is widely different from that depicted in the “Songs of Innocence”. The world in the “Songs of Innocence” was largely a child’s world, a world of simplicity, innocence, happiness, and security. The world in the “Songs of Experience” is a world of cruelty, tyranny, repression, evil, .guilt, and suffering. The “Songs of Experience” are'poemswhich describe the woes and injustices of civilized society. Some of these poems are satirical of the “mind-forged manacles”* of custom and law. The poems in this group show Blake in a mood of sadness and bitterness. Experience seems, to have taught Blake that men are shortsighted and blind, and that they are ignorant of the spiritual nature of life. Men wrongly prefer reason to the mystic vision, and they wrongly prefer law and morality to natural impulse.

The world of the “Songs of Experience” is full of dangers. It would seem that fear has infected human beings in this world. The hope of obtaining any comfort from love seems remote. There is too much of repression, including a repression of the sexual impulse. Any sexual expression of love meets with particularly bitter opposition from the elders in society. In these songs references to the fall of man from God’s grace are unmistakable. A golden age in the past is looked at with a longing. A possible return of bliss, either in another future golden age on earth or in heaven, is occasionally hinted at or stated as the only hope of human happiness, as in the Introduction, in The Voice of the Ancient Bard and in the Opening stanza of TheLittle Girl Lost.

The two opening poems strike the keynote of the “Songs of Experience”. In the Introduction, the Bard, like an ancient prophet, has heard God’s message. If mankind will only heal this message, a new dawn of happiness will break. Man has “lapsed” or fallen from his original happy state in the Garden of Eden, but there is a hope of recovering that state. However, in the

poem that follows, Earth says that she is imprisoned by her fears of the false god of conventional religion. This false god is described as “Starry Jealousy’ and “Selfish Father”. (He is Urizen of Blake’s later poems). The law prescribed by this god is a series of prohibitions. Blake effectively builds up here a picture of desolation, an atmosphere of darkness and of grey deSpair. Earth laments the fact that her bones are “frozen around with a heavy chain” and that “free love is bound with bondage”. In the two opening stanzas of The Little Girl Lost, the Bard, in the person of Blake himself, strikes an optimistic note, proclaiming a golden age in future when Earth will rise from her sleep and live in accordance with the imagination, that is, by the Word of God. The present world is, however, a “desert wild”. In The Voice of the Ancient Bard, the poet again looks forward to a new age, but the present world is full of doubt, dark disputes, folly, and “clouds of reason”. Blake was opposed to the dictates of “reason” and believed in“energy” or the “imagination”. For him the tiger symbolised that energy or imagination. The tiger represents the abundant life which Christ tried to bring into the world. The tiger certainly inspires terror, and that terror is fully conveyed to us by his poem, but the tiger is essentially Blake’s symbol of regeneration and energy, though it is a symbol also of the terrifying and violent forces within man.

Blake strongly deplores sexual repression in society. A number of poems have sexual repression as their subject. A Little Girl Lost opens with a ,vigorous condemnation by the poet of the suppression of love in the present time. In the story of the poem, Ona’s father is shocked and dismayed by her having made love to a boy. The father thus represents a restrictive influence. The Sick Rose is perhaps Blake’s most concentrated expression of the horror of repressed sexuality. Sexual repression diverts enormous psychic force into destructive effects. This poem also illustrates his view that sexual repression is itself sexual in character. In the poem called, The Angel, the subject is again sexual frustration. The angel seems to protect the maiden tenderly, but frustratingly, from sexual experience. The maiden hides her sexual awareness, and the angel goes away. She resolves to have sexual experience and arms herself against the angel. But it is too late, for she has grown old.

The main theme of the poem, Ah, Sunflower, is the need for a free expression of sexual love. The youth and the virgin, denied and denying, are virtually dead and buried. There is no doubt that the poet looks at this state of affairs as deplorable. The Garden Of Love is an attack on negative morality, particularly that which lays restrictions on sexual love The garden of love represents spontaneous natural delight. But priestly prohibitions, destroy this delight and bring death in its place. In other words, the loss of the capacity for delight is equivalent to death. Priestly prohibitions are here conveyed through the words “Thou shalt not” written over the door of the chapel.

In The Clod and the Pebble, Blake expresses his disapproval of the love that seeks only to please itself and to make a prisoner of the beloved. In this poem, the tyranny of love is the target of attack as much as the repression of love in various other poems. In My Pretty Rose Tree, the poet sacrifices the Opportunity of enjoying a woman’s love in order to remain faithful to his wife, but even this virtuous conduct on his part produces hostility in the wife. This means that the poet might as well have enjoyed the love that was offered to him by the other woman. The wife’s jealousy shows the kind of love that is deplored in the pebble’s love in the poem already mentioned. This jealousy is the tyrannical possessiveness which Blake finds to be often a characteristic of women’s love. In The Lily, the poet sees the possibility of danger and treachery in love (represented by the rose and the sheep), but the poet also sees the possibility that genuine innocence and love do exist (in the shape of the white lily). The Little Girl Lost and The Little Girl Found convey the idea that the passions which a growing young girl experiences should not be condemned or treated as being harmful and dangerous. These passions, particularly that of love, are symbolised by the wild animals who take charge of Lyca but do her no harm. Thus wild animals represent the human passions or energies which are also treated symbolically in the poem The Tiger. Lyca’s parents are made to recognise that their growing girl has now gone under the guardianship of Love, and is therefore perfectly secure.

Then there are poems of social protest. Blake is opposed to all kinds of oppression symbolised by the conventional religion, social institutions, schoolmasters, and even a children’s nurse. In the “Songs of Experience”, the nurse has a negative approach to children’s playing. She thinks of play as a waste of time, and she anticipates the days of maturity which will be full of deceit and suffering for the children:

Your spring and your day are wasted in play, And your winter and night in disguise.

The chimney sweeper’s distress now distinctly arouses the poet’s indignation. The little chimney sweeper’s parents have gone to the church to pray, thinking that he is contented and happy. But the child is quite aware of the “injury” that has been done to him, and so he speaks of the priest and the king as making up “a Heaven of our misery”. Holy Thursday denounces a society which permits conditions in which children have to seek charity. The poet refers to England as “a land of poverty” even though it considers itself “a rich and fruitful land”. Children can never be hungry in a land where the sun shines and the rain falls, but there are hungry children in England. London is another poem that depicts sordid and sad conditions of life. The poet sees “marks of weakness, marks of woe” in every face. He hears “the mind-forged manacles” in every voice, whether of man or child. Then there is the soldier who sheds his blood in obedience to his king, and there are the blackened chimney sweepers. Lastly, there is the tragedy of loveless marriages which compel men to go to

prostitutes and beget illegitimate children.

A Little Boy Lost depicts the cruelty of the church and its priests. A little boy is burnt to death under the orders of a priest because he dared to think for himself. Blake here brings out the full cruelty and pathos of the situation in which a small child is accused of heresy and then punished with death. The child in The Little Vagabond is critical of the church which is too puritanical and which imposes unnecessary austerities upon the people. He cannot see why God and the Devil cannot be reconciled. Why should God not show love even for the Devil ? The Schoolboy shows the frustration of a growing child’s healthy instincts. There are things which can delight the mind of a child, but the child is sent to a school which oppresses and limits hi m. The schoolmaster here represents a tyrannical influence, and the child has to spend his whole day under the schoolmaster’s supervrsmn: '

Under a cruel eye outworn The little ones spend the day In si ghin g and dismay.

Then there are a number of poems which depict human nature as unpleasant and ugly. Infant Sorrow shows the child as “a fiend hid in a cloud”, struggling and striving in his father’s hands. T0 Tirzah shows the physical body of man as being unwelcome and unwanted in contrast with the spiritual body or the soul. In The Human Abstract, we are told that mercy and pity are used as a justification for the continued existence of poverty and misery. If mercy and pity cannot he practised except by allowing poverty and misfortune to continue, they are no longer genuine virtues. If we really pity miserable people, we would do our best to improve their condition. As in the poem London, Blake is here pointing out that man is responsible for the evils of society. The “caterpillar” and the “fly” in this poem are the various types of clergymen to whom Blake was opposed. “Mystery” is the organised religion of which Blake was an enemy. Then there is the poem A Divine Image. Here we are told that cruelty, jealousy, terror, and secrecy are human attributes. (This can mean that God too suffers from such evils, because God made man in His own image).

In short, the “Songs of Experience” give us a repellent picture of human nature and English society, though we are not shut out completely from hope. Blake’s opposition to Reason is here quite apparent. Later on, he invented a god called Urizen to symbolise Reason. The attributes of this god are all negative, attributes which hinder, such as jealousy, fearfulness, cruelty, secrecy, hatred of life and of joy. His agents are priests and kings; but his agents also include parents, nurses, school-teachers, and others in positions of some authority; they also include men and women whose love is selfish and tyrannical. The aim of Urizen is to bind, fetter. imprison, freeze. The above survey of the “Songs of Experience” shows clearly how the restrictive influences of Urizen operate upon human beings in various spheres of life, and especially in the sphere of sexual love.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Soliloquy in Hamlet

Soliloquy, a dramatic device used by playwrights to reveal characters’ innermost thoughts, is used in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, Hamlet.to show Hamlet's feelings, thoughts and the changes of his mind that undergoes throughout the play. As the play progresses, the audience witnesses Hamlet in a vast range of emotions and much of these are revealed in his soliloquies. Without these “Hamlet’s character would have even less incomprehensible, and the audience and audience would be less able to experience the tension of the play and to gain insight into its problems.”(Wolfgang)

Hamlet's initial soliloquy is found in Act 1, scene 2. His speech portrays his disgust, anger, sorrow, and grief over his mother's sudden re- marriage so soon after his father's death. This soliloquy gives ’his own side of matter, expressing disgust at Claudius, venting at his anguished disappointment at his mother” (Maher) Hamlet is lost and locked in his own mind. He starts his soliloquy-

"O that this too too solid flesh would melt,

Thaw and resolve itself into dew."

He does not want to think about all the events happening around, but he can't help doing so. He is very upset and does not know what to do. He feels disillusioned with the world.-

"How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable'

Seem to me all the uses of this world!"

Hamlet goes on to complain about his mother for not mourning long enough. He deplores his mother's character. Not even two months have passed and she has married a man who is much inferior to her old husband. Her over hasty marriage, which he considers "an incestuous affair" makes him believe that women are weak and inconsistent creatures, he generalizes-

" Frailty thy name is woman!

Hamlet's second soliloquy comes just after the Ghost leaves him, after charging him with the duty of taking revenge upon the murderer of his father. Hamlet resolves to wipe out everything else from his memory and to remember only the Ghost's command.-

"from the table of my memory

I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,

And thy commandment all alone shall live."

The manner in which Hamlet here speaks of never forgetting the Ghost's words makes us think that Hamlet will soon plunge into action and carry out the behest of the Ghost” (Arora)

In act 2, scene 2, Hamlet's third soliloquy is seen which reveals Hamlet's views and feelings. Hamlet starts this soliloquy with "now I am alone", in a tone that he's had enough of it and that he needs to get away from other people.  “Hamlet is so full of conflicting . . . in avenging his father’s murder that he is virtually puzzled by the inner turmoil. His soliloquies reveal his dilemma” (Ron Cameron) In this soliloquy he also bitterly scolds himself for having failed to execute his revenge so far. He calls himself

"a dull and muddy melted rascal, peak

…And can say nothing- no, not for a king,’’

But again he castigates himself not for taking action to avenge his father's death-

"Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,

That I, the son of a dead father museder'd,

Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,"

Thus at the end of the soliloquy we see him planning to enact the Mouse trap play

"The play is the thing

wherein I'llcatch the conscience of the King."

In the 4th soliloquy, Hamlet hits upon a mental nadir. "To be or not to be "can arguably be Shakespeare's most recognizable quote in all of his works. Hamlet attempts to reason with himself on whether or not death is the only solution to end all life suffering portrays him as both confused and cowardly. In this monologue, Hamlet goes into tough debate over whether he should end his own suffering by committing suicide or to step it up and revenge for his father. This soliloquy partly explains Hamlet's delay in carrying out his purpose.

Hamlet's mental status shows some promise in his 5th soliloquy. Hamlet describes his mood as one in which he could "drink hot blood, and do such bitter business as the day would quake to look on". In this mood he can even kill his mother. He resolves to "speak daggers to her, but use none."

This soliloquy occurs on his way to meet his mother in the closet. He sees the King at prayer and gets an opportunity to kill him, an opportunity for which he has been longing so far. And yet he does not act because-

Now might I do it pat,now  he is praying.

And now I will do it, and so he goes to heaven

Hamlet decides to wait for an opportunity when his uncle is

"drunk asleep, or in his rage,

…or about some act

That has no relish of salvation in't . . .

This soliloquy emphasizes his delay and procrastinating nature.

Hamlet finally gains the courage to avenge his father.. Hamlet then feels ashamed of his unwillingness to go after Claudius. It dawned on Hamlet that he had been thinking too much and acting too little. With his new determination to avenge his father's murder he vows,

"o, from this time forth,

My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!"

This soliloquy once again emphasizes Hamlet's irresolution and his meditative temperament. His temperament pricks him and urges him but as a natural deficiency always obstructs him.

In addition to that various scholars and authors have shown the importance of the soliloquies of Hamlet. For example, Rolf Soellner says, “Hamlet’s soliloques. . . are fascinating and perplexing exercises in self analysis”

Ralph Berry argues that a principal function of Hamlet's soliloquies is to impose "his viewpoints upon the audience."

In act 3, scene1, there is a soliloquy by Ophelia in which her grief over what she thinks over what she thinks to be Hamlet's loss of reason. This soliloquy gives her idea of the great qualities of Hamlet- scholar, soldier, and ‘the observer of all observers

To conclude we can say that each soliloquy gives us insight into his ability to think and his failure to act in it. It brings the audience into his consciousness and gives us reflection into the most profound thoughts and emotions of the character. Each soliloquy divulges his motivations, or lack thereof, as well as his mental state of the time of each one.


01. Wolfgang Clemen(2005), Shakespeare's Soliloquies. Retrived from  books.google.com

02. Ron Cameron[1999]:Acting Skills for Life, Dundurn Press Ltd
03. Mary Zenet Maher[1992]Modern Hamlets and their soliloquies, University of Iowa Press
04. Arora P.N, Dwivedi A.M, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Anmol Publications PVT. LTD.
05. Rolf Soellner (1972) Shakespeare's patterns of self-knowledge, Ohio State University Press.

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