Blake’s Weeping Women
William Blake’s Songs of Experience shows the dark revelations born of experience. With this break from the more optimistic Songs of Innocence come a new, darker pallet, and more despairing imagery. Specifically, two poems contain imagery that, although not mentioned directly in the poem are of great importance. Both, “The Angel” and “My Pretty ROSE TREE” rely on the image of a despairing woman, sprawled on the ground. These women exemplify the despair, and fall from grace due to the experiences of life.
Blake’s poem “The Angel” emphasizes the hardening of one’s demeanor towards life as experience builds. It states the difference between expectation and reality, and the emotional downturn from that gap when the narrator states, "I was a maiden Queen... and I wept," (Blake location 446). The image of the woman, lying on the ground, turned away from the angel signifies the turning away from God. The poem states the disappointment in life, but furthermore the women’s movement away from the angel signifies movement from God.
The second poem, “My Pretty ROSE TREE” is similar to the first in its overt message. It expresses the narrator’s displeasure based on the difference between reality and their expectations. The narrator expected the rose tree to be bountiful, and beautiful, but instead that was not the case. He or she says, "But my rose turnd away," (Blake location 463). The deeper meaning, when viewed in conjunction with “The Angel” given the similar imagery, is displeasure with the natural way of life, the way of God.
In both cases, life and experience holds only disappointment, but the imagery depicts a deeper meaning as it relates to the religious undertones present in the poem. The imagery signals a turn away from the religious; it shows the disenchantment with religion when faced with reality. When viewed in contrast to poems in Songs of Innocence, this difference becomes even more compelling. The imagery serves to ask a question of the viewer. It questions who is truly responsible for life events. Are they due to pre-destination or in-life actions? Through his imagery, Blake seems to suggest the former.
Blake, William, and Geoffrey Keynes. Songs of Innocence and Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul; 1789 - 1794. Kindle ed. London: Oxford U, 1977.