GradeSaver(TM) ClassicNotes Poems of William Blake
Home : The Poems of William Blake : Study Guide : The Poems of William Blake Summary

The Poems of William Blake Summary

by William Blake

The Poems of William Blake Summary

“Cradle Song” -- This poem is a lullaby being song from a mother to her child. The poem can be read as a metaphor for the mother's awareness and inability to stop her child from growing up in this world and losing all of his/her innocence. The first half of the poem is a snapshot of how peaceful and joyful the sleeping babe is, but "youthful harvesting" is inevitable, and the mother is left saddened at the fact that it will not be long before all purity and innocence is lost.

“Hear Thy Voice” -- The speaker (the bard) has heard the voice of the oppressive tyrant father figure who fearfully delivers a “holy word” to bully and govern all of mankind. The overarching point is an invocation to all of humankind to cast off their degenerate condition of suffering and blindness and to begin to self-govern the material universe instead of remaining its prisoner.

“Love’s Secret” -- This poem offers the reader a refreshing look at a speaker exploring the themes of the freedoms one experiences by not being in love: freedom from jealousy, freedom from admiration and affection, freedom from desire, and freedom from want. The basic story here is of a speaker who let’s his lover aware of his feelings and emotions toward her which results in a repudiation towards him.

“Mad Song” -- The speaker is a ghost who is tormented by light (daytime) and therefore only comes out at night and in the darkness. The overall tone or feeling to the poem is of grotesque nature. The voice of the poor, half-witted, cruelly treated vagabond speaker is a horrific cry of misery wrung from his heart. He seems imprisoned in the night’s darkness; the day offers no refuge for him, instead only accenting the limits of the experienced state. “Mad Song” is a comment both on the poet and society. The world in which the speaker lives is oppressive and he has no escape.

“To the Evening Star” -- The speaker calls upon the Venus, the Goddess of Love, to protect him (all of us) against the evils of the night, and more importantly, inspire him/us to embrace that, which is oppressed during daytime. Alas, the excitement and bliss of the unencumbered will disappear with the cycle of the day, and just as in man’s law-abiding society, the force of opposition will govern all things back to its experienced state.

“To the Muses” -- This is an overarching complaint or gripe about the lost power of the poet in an information-expanding England. Blake sets out to poke fun at the idea that English poetry is superior to the rest of world. The speaker is at a loss of inspiration and wonders aloud at where it has all gone (heaven, the sky, the tops of mountains, the bottom of the sea)?

“The Season Songs” -- “To Spring,” “To Summer,” “To Autumn,” and “To Winter,” are grouped together when discussing themes and meaning for obvious reasons. While they do stand alone as four separate poems, Blake intended the four poems to be interconnecting. Without question, it is the theme of the cycle that needs to be taken away from these. In my analysis here, I have represented the cycle of the seasons as a reference to sexual desire and fulfillment, and to the different stages of human life and civilization. This analysis is only one of many that can be done.

“How sweet I roam’d from field to field” -- The speaker here is a young girl who is being seduced by the love of a “prince.” Before she concedes to his seduction, everything in the world is sweet and pleasurable. After the speaker becomes caged and her innocence has been taken from her, there is no turning back to her previous state, and the lover toys with her heart in a sadistic and tormenting manner. The speaker’s liberty lost has a double meaning; the innocence to roam freely and ignorantly, and the exposure to feel love while living among the social oppression to not act naturally upon love’s instincts and desires to copulate.

“Love and Harmony Combine” -- Blake explores the relationship of opposites in this poem. This time, the dialect is marriage, and the speaker is examining the interrelationships between love, freedom, and marriage. Particularly in this poem, it is the opposition between genders and the opposition of freedom out of love and slavery in love that are compared.

“Memory, hither come” – Here we have a speaker who implores memory to transport him to some imaginary river where he may withdraw from the realities of the world and be inspired to write poetry. He clings to a daytime memory instead of creating from within his own artistic ability to shape nature with alternative images and symbols and this only leads him to a self-centered state of pity and nighttime brooding.

“A War Song to Englishmen” -- A direct call of patriotic duty, this poem is as obvious in meaning as it appears. It is a general call to war of Blake's countrymen, only not a war of aggression or supremacy over foreign territory, but rather a call of rebellion to the individual to fight for himself to be set free. The fate of the soldiers reaches beyond England’s history and is subtly intended for all mankind. Overall, the verse is dignified with patriotism for all humanity, however ironic his patriotism to his own country may appear.

“I saw a chapel all of gold” -- There is a dual meaning to this short and seemingly simple poem. One is the obvious comment on the falsity of religion that Blake is making. The chapel of gold plainly addresses the greed in the church. Blake questions the existence of money and riches in the house of God. The second meaning becomes almost as obvious as the first, once you know it is there. The poem is stuffed full of obvious sexual images. In this analysis, the chapel of gold is a representative for the temple of innocent love, the virgin body. A repressed villain who can no longer bury his natural sexual drive soon defiles this holy place.

“The Crystal Cabinet” -- This is a tale about an unhappy and unsuccessful love affair. It is a crossing of worlds for the speaker, who exists in one world at the beginning of the poem, is captured in a second world, and is finally tossed out and falls into a third world. We have a speaker who becomes the object (victim perhaps) of an erotic possessive maiden. We watch him as he reacts to his situation by reaching outward, to the world in which he is placed, instead of inward, towards himself. This causes him to become totally absorbed in his situation and leads him to a state of narcissism and misguided erotic confidence, leading to his banishment.

“Auguries of Innocence” -- The auguries are a series of couplets, each featuring a distinct theme and all in some way interconnected. The idea is that universal interdependence, the principle idea that there exists a correspondence between equivalent entities, can lie on opposing planes. . In other words, there is wisdom in seeing the world through two eyes instead of with one eye. Each animal, couplet, represents a different part of the humanized world.

“All Religions Are One & There Is No Natural Religion” -- Blake argues that every religion, and all sects of philosophy, originated in God’s revelation but that that revelation is then filtered through human consciousness. Therefore, each creed taken on by humankind adopts a human characteristic that has been superimposed with a divine essence. He alludes to our impulses that cannot be gained from experience, and our longing for the infinite, which goes against the laws of nature, as support for his thesis. Blake concludes that the universe within which we live is infinite and will become too vast to comprehend, which will lead us to a wearisome and mentally defeated state.

The Poems of William Blake Essays and Related Content