Sunday, September 21, 2014

Blake - Infant Sorrow

                “Infant Sorrow” by William Blake is an illustrated poem from his Songs of Experience collection. The Songs of Experience are a collection of poems that are not only more experienced pieces of work, but also represent life in a more experienced manor. In “Infant Sorrow”, an unwanted baby is born into the world. However, in contrast to its counterpart “Infant Joy” from the Songs of Innocence, the poem portrays the negative and uncensored perspective of life.  Despite the poem creating a sense of sorrow as the title would suggest, the painting is bright, vibrant and full of life. One possible explanation for this color choice is to depict the allusion of innocence, the desire for love and care, and an appearance of a non-existent utopia.
                Blake’s color choice could be depicting an allusion of innocence. When a baby is born, they are completely oblivious to everything that is happening around them. The baby does not know that its parents do not want them or that the world they were born into approves of child labor. Blake may have wanted to represent this sense of reality in the painting to supplement as well as contrast the poem. Due to this plate being part of the Songs of Experience and not the Songs of Innocence, it portrays a more well-rounded perspective due to the duality of the perspectives. Another possible benefit of depicting this allusion of innocence is to confuse the reader of the poem. At first confusing the reader may not seem like something an author or artist would want to do, but in this case it could be Blake’s way of forcing the reader to not only understand the innocence of a baby, but also to reevaluate the world around them.
                Blake’s color choice also depicts a desire for love and care. Although realistically the baby is oblivious to the fact that its parents do now want it, it does have a desire for love and care. Babies do not have the benefit, or in some cases the misfortune, of knowing what is happening, but they do have the capability to tell when something is wrong or different. When a baby soils its diaper, it can tell that something is different and cries. When a baby hears an unknown noise, it can sense something could be wrong and lets you know. A baby wants to be loved and cared for. Blake could be using this depiction for a greater purpose, to make people cherish children enough to demolish child labor. In today’s society, it’s morally disturbing to ponder child labor, but in the eighteenth century, this was a normal practice that Blake did not agree with.
                Another purpose for the color choice could be to represent a non-existent utopia. This could be Blake’s depiction for the utopia that he is trying to portray throughout both the Songs of Innocence and the Songs of Experience. By looking at several of the poems and paintings, it is apparently that Blake does not approve of child labor or any form of life where a child is not cherished. In this painting, the baby appears to be happy and the mother appears to be caring for her child. In other poems such as the “Chimney Sweeper”, the boy is sold into child labor and is questioning why his parents and the church are allowing this happen. For the infant of this poem, it is very likely that either they will be forced into child labor or an orphanage since the parents do not want it. Like with the depiction of innocence and the desire of love and care, this could be trying to revoke the innocence of society and form a better place for their children to live in.

                Blake’s color choice could be depicting an allusion of innocence, desire for love and care, and a portrayal of a non-existent utopia. All three reasons can be focused into a greater purpose. The duality and contrast of the poem and poetry force the reader to reevaluate the world around them, or more specifically the treatment of children. The poem represents where the world currently stands, whereas the painting represents where the world should be according to Blake. 


  1. I liked the section about color contrasting the poem. Where you talked about how the reader would reevaluate the passage for innocence and the not so innocent. Doubt it is confusing the reader but more of making them interpret it differently. There was a little bit of disconnect for the utopia section. The chimney sweeper is described and it never really came back to the Infant of Sorrow enough to make a solid claim. Further explanation would probably complete the argument.

  2. Allusion and illusion are totally different words!

    Is the baby unwanted in "Infant Sorrow"? That's not at all obvious to me. "Blake could be using this depiction for a greater purpose, to make people cherish children enough to demolish child labor" -- this seems like a stretch, since infants can't labor in any case. In any case it would require further elaboration. And while it's clearly true in some sense that in general babies want to be loved, is that the case within the confines of this poem? You generalize a great deal, but focus on the poem itself very little.

    I'm not saying that your interpretation of the colors are totally off base, but you depend an awful lot on the general observation that it's a colorful image, rather than dwelling, for instance, on the mother being dressed in red (surely that matters!) and almost everything else being green. In fact, you wrote an essay about Blake's use of color without ever mentioning the name of a specific color - that can't possibly be right! Why is the mother's dress red? Why are the curtains, etc., green? How do you interpret the colors of the baby? Etc.

    Generalize only carefully. Begin always with specifics. Avoid speculation (e.g., it's really hard to see how you get to child labor here, when we're dealing with a family which is obviously middle class or above, based on the furnishings).