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Songs of Innocence and of Experience Background

by William Blake

About Songs of Innocence and of Experience

With Songs of Innocence, published in 1789, Blake introduced a new method of printing his own books. Blake would print his poems by hand onto copper plates, illustrate each poem with drawings, and then color the prints by hand. Blake claimed to have received this idea from the spirit of his recently deceased brother Robert. Most of Blake’s work from that point on was printed using this method.

Blake moved to Lambeth from London in 1790, the same year he published his prose work, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. This time also marks his shift from career as professional engraver to a more meditative writer as he developed his own mythology. His work expressed his belief that freedom and independence, including sexual freedom and independence from authority, were paramount. In 1794, Blake published Songs of Experience, which contrasts with the childlike naivety of his earlier Songs of Innocence. Songs of Experience brings in a dark and cynical tone that laments the destruction of innocence by modern society. The following year he republished both volumes together as Songs of Innocence and of Experience, essentially creating a single volume of poetry that has persisted in this form up to the present day.

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