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The Poems of William Blake Summary and Analysis

by William Blake

Auguries of Innocence

Summary

The poet proffers the argument that the natural world can be regenerated in time and that nature itself can be an augury to the lost vision of innocence. The phrasing of the title is the strongest example of this theme, for here, the word “innocence” signifies man in the unfallen state.

The first quatrain is where this theme of seeing the world through different means is set forth. The infinite (“Heaven”) can be seen through something that is not human, but still life (“through a Wildflower”). This “wildflower” is a symbol for free love. Heaven is seen though love, the world is seen through the intellect, and the imagination is that which bridges the two. In the same sense, that which is not life nor human, the dehumanized world, is capable of revealing “infinity.” It may be worth noting the famous Blake line from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern."

The remainder of the poem is basic imagery, each animal representing a different part of the humanized world. Below is a list of a few of the key associations:

Dog – the beggar

Horse – the slave

Cock – the soldier

Singing – an inward, spiritual possession

Lamb’s submission – Jesus’ sacrifice for mankind

Bat – human spectre

Owl – humankind lost in the darkness, fearing an unknown God

Caterpillar – humankind emerging from nature’s womb, the exit from Eden

Pass the polar bar – enter a new world

Waves – the sea of time and space

Emmet and Eagle – perception from close and afar; physical and imaginative perception

Analysis

“The Auguries of Innocence” is a series of couplets that most Blake scholars and biographers agree were written in no particular order, but just gathered as such for printing in about 1803, a decade after “Songs of Innocence and Experience.” The interconnecting theme between the collection of couplets is universal interdependence, the principle idea that there exist a correspondence between equivalent entities that lie on completely different planes. Scandinavian mystic and poet Swedenborg was the major influence to this philosophical belief. In other words, there is a wisdom, or vision (“augury”) in seeing the world through two eyes instead of with one eye.

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