Blake's primary persona in Songs of Innocence, the Shepherd is inspired by a boy on a cloud to write his songs down. The Shepherd writes of Innocence, about lambs and the Lamb, about nature, and about the experiences of children. The Shepherd is intended as a (biased) view of the world from a more naive perspective than Blake himself holds.
The Bard is Blake's persona for several poems in Songs of Experience. More worldly-wise than his counterpart, the Shepherd, the Bard is also more a craftsman of words than is the rustic singer. The Bard also has a prophetic voice and claims to see past, present, and future all the same.
One of the few named characters in Songs of Innocence, Tom Dacre is the young boy who cries at night after a hard day as a chimney sweeper. He eventually sleeps and has a dream of an Angel, who reassures him that his present suffering will end one day, and that he will be welcomed into an afterlife without pain.
the Little Black Boy
A character from the poem of the same title, the Black Boy is used by Blake to critique "hope for the future" religious and social beliefs and also to point out the flaws of racism. The Little Black Boy at first dislikes his dark complexion in contrast to the white English boys, but is assured by his mother that all outward appearances will fall away one day, leaving only the pure (but white) souls to enjoy the love of God.
the School Boy
The School Boy typifies the desire of youth to be outdoors without restrictions, despite the confines of institutionalized education. He speaks of the drudgery he must undertake to be in school and compares it to the wonders he might experience outside on a summer's day.
the Lost Little Boy
A recurring character (possibly different characters), the Little Boy who is lost appears in two poems from Songs of Innocence and in one poem in Songs of Experience. In each case, Blake uses the character to point out the failure of parents and of society to meet the needs of the children, and also the harm which blind religious devotion often entails. In Songs of Innocence, the Little Boy is rescued by God and finds comfort with his mother; in Songs of Experience he is discovered by a Priest as he questions his apprehension of God, and he is eventually burned alive for his alleged heresy.
the Lost Little Girl
The Lost Little Girl appears in Songs of Experience as a counterpoint to the "Little Boy Lost" of Songs of Innocence. She is pursued by her parents through the desert in which she wanders, but a lion and a lioness find her and bring her to their cave for safety. The poem suggests that they may have killed her in order to free her from her earthly suffering.
Songs of Innocence and of Experience Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Songs of Innocence and of Experience is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
“The Chimney Sweeper” (1789) describes the terrible living conditions of young children working as chimney sweepers in Britain during the French Revolution. This eerie poem is narrated by a young chimney sweeper and illustrates that he and his...
The rose symbolizes earthly, as opposed to spiritual, love, which becomes ill when infected with the materialism of the world. The rose’s bed of “crimson joy” may also be a sexual image, with the admittedly phallic worm representing either lust or...
Songs of Innocence and of Experience essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of the poems in Songs of Innocence and of Experience by William Blake.