Songs of Innocence and Experience incapsulate Blake as visionary, revolutionary and Romantic. Often his peers regarded him as madman and yet now he is read as surprisingly modern, accepted widely on university and school courses as a crucial poet of the Romantic period. Often the poems in this work come in pairs, so that innocence and experience can be compared. The accompanying printed colour designs from Blake’s few original copies use his complex system of symbolism to suggest further readings of the poems in an unusual pairing of visual and poetic art.

Blake idealises a state of innocence, and finds it in early childhood (see his influence from Rousseau ‘everything is good as it comes from the hands of the Creator’) but also wants to find a state of innocence out of and after experience. Innocence, for Blake, is therefore a state of mind rather than a period of life.

Read on for the poems.