Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Songs of Innocence and of Experience Summary and Analysis of "Holy Thursday" (Songs of Experience)


In the corresponding poem from Songs of Innocence, Blake subtly critiques the treatment of poor children by English society. Here, he is more direct, questioning the holiness of a day that essentially celebrates the existence of poverty. England is a “rich and fruitful land” but her children are “reduced to misery,/Fed with cold and usurious hand.” Despite the outward praise that the poor children offer at the Holy Thursday spectacle, their country is “a land of poverty!” England is doomed to be “bleak & bare” in an “eternal winter” so long as poverty exists within her borders.

In contrast, Blake points to lands where “the sun does shine” because there a child “can never hunger…Nor poverty the mind appall.”


"Holy Thursday" consists of four quatrains. The first is a heroic quatrain (ABAB) but the remaining three vary. The second stanza strikes discord by having no rhyme (ABCD, although there may be an intended slant rhyme for "joy" and "poverty" in their spelling). The last two follow the ABCB pattern. This irregularity contributes to the poem's tone of decay and confusion as the subject matter, the exploitation and neglect of children, becomes clear to the reader.

The “Holy Thursday” of Innocence was open to two contrasting readings. This version is blunt and may only be read as a harsh critique of the religious hypocrisy inherent in the institutions of Blake’s day.

The "eternal winter" in which the children live suggests that poverty is a state of death in nature, and that the true order of things is not to have children languishing in squalor and hunger. The children lack the sun and life-giving rain of summer and spring, and are thus doomed to this unnatural state by the machinations of a system that remembers them only to justify its own righteousness.