Monday, September 22, 2014

The Words Hidden in the Picture

                Blake has this technique of letting his images bring out the nuances that a reader might miss in his words. His work of poems may be more thoroughly interpreted when spoken out loud rather than read. This is why the colors and images were carefully selected. They are meant to represent the underlying meaning of the words when reading silently. When examining the image for “The Clod and the Pebble,” the illustration clearly demonstrates the overlying theme of the poem. In this case, the physical poem structure matches the layout of the image; as in the two almost mirror one another. There is a symmetry found in the layout of the poem and of the image accompanying it. The content of the image is where the differences reach passed the surface of the poem. Blake is manipulating love and purity in this poem, and the difference in animals also reflects the idea of naivety vs experience. The picture also has certain factors that tie it together as one cohesive unit, but also shows the difference in tone from beginning to end of the poem that a reader may not pick up on.
                The actual beginning and end of the poem are very similar. Blake edits the phrase “builds a Heaven in Hells despair” for the end of the first stanza and the end of the poem itself. Though the tone has changed, the words and the symmetry of the poem has not. The picture also follows this structure. The words are framed by two similar horizontal landscapes. Though the content is different, there is a sense of sameness that each half of the picture contains. The image is pleasing to the eye because it is organized in an almost equal way. There are clearly divided lines, creating the three separate sections. The separate sections in the image also coincide with the three stanzas that are in the poem. At a cursory glance it seems as if Blake wants his poem to match up with a false sense of knowledge.
                In the Songs of Innocence, the poems and the themes did not go much further than skin-deep. Blake is using the add-on of pictures to create this false sense of innocence when reading the Songs of Experience. If the picture and the words are so clearly arranged; if they are simple to organize in a pretty picture, than the meaning can be found at face value. Experience is deeper than the surface however.
                The importance of the different animals and organization of the panels comes into play. The top half of the image (pairing with the first half of the poem) can be once again given a face value meaning. The cattle represents the cattle mentioned in the poem. Blake lines up the cattle, though, in height order. There is a logical way in which the livestock is placed. The tone of the poem in the start is echoing that of the Songs of Innocence. “Love seeketh not Itself to please” (Blake 32). Love is portrayed as this pure and innocent object. Love is not meant to be complicated, or have any other purpose than to serve others and to be selfless. The cattle, though in a herd, are not crowded or snapping at one another. They know their purpose is to serve their masters and go as they are prodded.
                Ducks are not animals that are restricted to one way of life. They can swim, they can waddle, and they can fly. They are complicated creatures that do not need guidance on where to go. They are not in control of humans at all. Cattle are bred for human consumption, and though duck can be on the menu, it is only by chance. For now, the duck is sitting in the brook along with the pebble, but there is no say on how long he will stay. Experience manipulates people’s philosophies, mentalities, and ultimately their lives. Blake is trying to show how something even as innocent as love can be just as damaged by reality as anything else. Moving from the top to the bottom of the image is showing the overlying theme of “The Clod and the Pebble”.

                The words and the phrases create a textual symmetry that is echoed in the picture that is joined with the poem. The similarities are only on the surface and Blake proves that with his use of the animals. The change of animals and of spacing in the panels shouts out to the small nuances of tone in the poem itself. 


  1. I got lost when reading your paper, and I wasn't sure what exactly you were trying to prove until the last paragraph. You make good points, especially about the animals but your thesis is weak, and unclear.

  2. Your introduction is dense, challenging and a bit of a mess. I think you're arguing basically that the images take the place of *sound*, or even simulate sound. It's a great (if difficult) idea, but you would need to focus on it to make it work well. Your discussion of how the illustration mirrors the poem is fine but it doesn't seem to be doing the same thing as the first half of the intro.

    Your discussion of the three sections is strong by itself - it's a good, focused idea - but I'm not sure what you're really arguing *overall*. Why does the visual symmetry (which isn't pure symmetry - the sections are very differently sized, for instance) mean? "At a cursory glance it seems as if Blake wants his poem to match up with a false sense of knowledge." - this sentence needed more explanation. I suspect you have a good idea here, but you aren't clearly communicating it.

    "Experience is deeper than the surface however." - this line of thought might be easier to develop in a revision. The danger here is of overs implying the Songs of Innocence - if you want to argue that it is simple without oversimplifying, I think you need to work through an example using one of the more complex poems from Songs of Innocence.

    Your analysis of the different animals and why they are where they are is quite good. Mentioning some of the other animals at the bottom would have been a nice touch.

    Overall: Your analysis of individual elements of the poem and images are quite good (why is the bottom illustration smaller, though?). Your strongest ideas needed additional development - the "false sense of knowledge," for instance, isn't clear enough. Your ending on the idea of symmetry isn't as good as it could have been. It does bring things together a little, but I wanted more on what the symmetry means and why it matters - demonstrating that it exists is a starting point, and certainly something you would want to move far beyond in a revision.