A student’s analysis of ‘Spring’, ‘Blossom’, ‘The Laughing Song’ and ‘The Fly’

Analysis of Blake’s poetry.

 

Spring

Spring is a poem that is used to “welcome in the year”, the fact that the poem is written in spring time makes the reader think that Blake’s new year starts in the spring time and that his new year is when nature is remade and renewed, it’s when nature starts it’s new life when Blake celebrates his new year. At the time the romantic poets led a movement to celebrate nature and natural environments and felt that nature embodied the human imagination, this could be why Blake celebrates his new year in the spring time because as a poet he feels that nature is key to his imagination and creation, this makes the poems key meaning more clear, as they celebrate nature the biggest celebration would come when nature starts its new cycle of life.

 

The Laughing Song

This poem describes all the different ‘laughter’ of nature and its surroundings, for example the woods, stream, air, hills, and meadow are each said to laugh just by being there, maybe the different sounds made by them are their way of laughing for example the stream trickling and the wind rustling through the leaves of the trees that make up the wood.

 

Blossom

This is another one of Blake’s poems that describes nature and life. It is full of many cheerful images such as “leaves so green” and “happy blossom”, this is representative of Blake’s view on nature, he sees it as key to life and something to cheer people up. This poem tells a story of two different birds and their experiences with their lives, the first a sparrow, who is content with its living and the surroundings it’s in, the other is of a robin, who is distressed in its existence, this makes the second stanza full of negativity. The two birds could be representing two classes of Blake’s time, the first a upper-ruling class who is content with itself, and a lower, poorer class who sees no meaning to their life and lives under the upper classes.

 

The Fly

The poem is told in a voice of mindlessness. The poem sees the narrator, being the fly, go from its thoughtless state to one of realization and mindfulness. It leads to the ending of “Then am I a happy fly, if I live, or if I die”, this makes the fly aware that can it really be happy and careless as it once was even if it dies, how the fly comes to this conclusion as the poem goes on is amazing because of how it comes to the quick conclusion it takes many to come to for an age.

 

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One student’s interpretation of ‘The Fly’

 

This five-stanza poem takes on a playful rhyme scheme and meter, despite its serious and somewhat morbid subject. Blake himself  compares himself to the fly because like the insect’s, his existence is insignificant: mortal (he too will be brushed off by a hand, in time) and devoted to apparently frivolous activities (“I dance and drink and sing”) which will be interrupted just as brutally as the fly’s “summer play”.This poem also returns to Blake’s theme in Songs of Experience of the place of thought in the quality and quantity of human life. The speaker harms the fly with his “thoughtless hand,” indicating that thoughtlessness leads to death. It is the concept of the lack of thought behind the fateful actions that Blake seeks to develop in this poem. Had the man given thought before brushing aside the fly he might not have done so, and he might have realised that he had the power of life and death in his hand. However, the fly does not know this, and its behaviour is unchanged because it has no way of knowing that its life could be about to end. I like this poem due to its seemingly simple appearance as it has a word count of only 69, but on closer inspection it is actually an in depth poem filled with a deep meaning. Are we as humans as insignificant as a fly?

A Student’s First Thoughts on reading the Songs of Innocence and Experience

The echoing green – I particularly enjoyed this piece because of it’s use of pathetic fallacy to represent god, and all of the heavenly joys that one experiences when religious and innocent.
The fly – The fly attracted me as it uses what is perceived as an ‘ugly’ animal to show the troubles that are faced by many different people or races in their every day life, the ‘ugly’ nature of the animal connotes the ‘ugly’ nature of the problems many face.
The chimney sweeper – I like this poem especially because of it’s contrasting imagery, the chimney sweeper is black with soot, In contrast to the heavenly, innocent connotations of the snow around him, which could also be seen as pathetic fallacy, also shows deprivation and the exploitation of child labour.
More in-depth analysis
Holy Thursday (experience)
The poem opens with bold rhetoric devices, linking the divine purity of heaven and god, with ‘misery’ and poverty, this juxtaposition instantly casts us into the harsh, unforgiving world of experience, possibly like the one that Blake witnessed in his childhood. The use of irony in the negative descriptions of the land add to the intensity of the poverty and suffering as the land is branded as “rich and fruitful”. The ironic rhetoric question, “can it be a song of joy?” Adds to the negativity of this piece, coupled with the exclamatory use of the issue directly, “poverty!”. I feel the children are used as a catalyst in this poem to create guilt and sorrow from the reader, the use of child-like innocence gives them similar heavenly qualities. The imagery used in conjunction with this world gives it a painful, empty feel – “thorns” , “bare” – which is uncannily illustrative of the emotions of the people, the time scale of this seemingly post-apocalyptic situation is described as an ‘eternity’ acting as an intensifier to the aim of this piece; to raise awareness. I feel that in this poem, God and prosperity are represented by the sun, and it’s rays, never to shine upon this derelict, futile land. This extended metaphor continues to explain wherever the sun does shine, poverty shall be absent and again, the use of children to show this improvement, intensifies the effect.

Holy Thursday (innocence)
The opening of this piece also contains heavenly connotations, much like it’s experience related counterpart, however, this version brings together all the joys religion and god can bring, linked with words such as ‘clean’ rather than ‘misery’. The use of colour connotation with children creates a feel of happiness as bright, vibrant colours are used, “red, blue and green”. I also believe the fact that the children are paired, never alone, portrays a very positive, unifying view of innocence, unlike experience in which we all stand alone and aware. Winter is also seen in a different light for the innocence poem, it is directly connoted to heaven and purity unlike the ‘eternal’ ‘misery’ it supposedly causes in the experience version of the poem. Similarly, animal imagery also represents innocence whilst denoting some religious beliefs, such as Muslims who feel the ‘lamb’ is holy. As the ‘thousands of little boys and girls’ join in unification, the power of their action is described as “mighty” implicating that innocence is a strong attribute, only to be lost when exposed to the many taboo situations throughout life.

Blake’s ‘The Fly’: “Am not I/A fly like thee?/Or art not thou/A man like me?”

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Little Fly
Thy summers play,
My thoughtless hand
Has brush’d away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink & sing:
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength & breath:
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

You can compare different versions of the poem here.

Questions to answer on the poem

What effects are created when the poem is read aloud or sung?

What interests you most about the poem? Why?

What questions might you ask about the poem?

What is the poem about?

What effects does the language create?

What is the effect of the poem’s structure and form?

What are the similarities and differences between other texts?

How do other people interpret this poem? Find sources/links…

What might make a good creative response to the poem?

How might you teach this poem?