Blake List — Volume 1998 : Issue 77

Today's Topics:
	 Re: understanding of innocence and experience...
	 Re: understanding of innocence and experience...
	 Re: What Blake does each of us see at the PArty? -Reply
	 Blake's Innocence and Experience
	 Bruce Dickinson's "Chemical Wedding" -Reply
	 Re: understanding of innocence and experience... -Reply
	 oothoon and Los
	 Re: understanding of innocence and experience...
	 In defense of the Worm
	 continental prophesies
	 Free Page Counter & Cool Graphical Visitor Log !


Date: Sun, 11 Oct 1998 17:31:54 -0800
From: ndeeter 
Subject: Re: understanding of innocence and experience...
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John Young wrote:
> Look up the two terms in the OED.  You should find their meanings
> (prescriptively and descriptively) documented through history.
>                                         and/or
>  Compare how he employs the terms in correspondence as opposed to creative
> writing.
> In a grossly simplistic sense,  I believe "innocence" for Blake means that
> state of being which views the world with a perspective which holds that
> 'I know nothing, therefore what I learn is discovery.'  "Experience" would
> be that state of being that looks at the discovery and applies critical
> thinking to it.  Ultimately, I'm shying away from the unfortunate trend of
> thinking that for Blake "innocence" equals good, and "experience" equals
> bad.


I would agree with John whole-heartedly, except I would amend
"experience" to read: Experience is the state of being that looks at
discovery and applies critical, imaginative, and passionate thinking to
it and therefore crystallizes knowledge so that someone CAN learn
responsibility to go with that discovery.

However, that means that if you want to "know" Blake's view of innocence
and experience, it means you must read, and read closely, that which
expresses his view. Namely, his Songs, however, other poems, prophecies,
and engravings might carry something else too. What aspects of
"innocence" and "experience" seem to jump out at you from the Songs of
Innocence and Experience? What do YOU discover in Blake's System of

Nathan Deeter


Date: Sun, 11 Oct 1998 21:35:06 -0600
From: (Jennifer Michael)
Subject: Re: understanding of innocence and experience...
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It's also useful for me to see each state as embodying a limited
perspective:  i.e., Innocence sees things that Experience cannot see as
well as vice versa.  I also resist viewing the states chronologically
(Innocence coming before Experience), but rather see them as coexistent
halves of a single whole, often unaware of the other's existence but at
other times aware (as in the companion poems).

Jennifer Michael


Date: Mon, 12 Oct 1998 09:48:50 +0200
From: P Van Schaik 
Subject: Re: What Blake does each of us see at the PArty? -Reply

Thank you very much, Tim, for your full and generous-spirited reply. I've
been on recess, emptying the mind of all literary and other problems, and
out of reach of the computer.   Yes, we'll have to agree to disagree
about personally  believing in Blake's visions of eternal life.  Mainly, I try
to interpret what he himself believes rather than import what I believe,
although life experience has taught me that `there are more things on
heaven and earth than ....', as Hamlet learns.  I think Shakespeare was a
believer in divine providence, too, unless all his comedies  and romances
simply use divine providence as a dramatic strategy.  Wish I had time to
take this matter up on a Shakespeare forum as I think it central to
understanding his work. 


Date: Mon, 12 Oct 1998 11:16:18 +0200
From: P Van Schaik 
Subject: REPRESSION  -Reply

Thank you, Gloudina, for your truth-telling posting.  It is reassuring that
another sees the same wooden stake aimed at another's heart without
just cause, as I do.  I find Mr Dumain's remarks so wide of the mark that
they can't even be seen as ironical or having any bearing on reality. My
own background, despite the married name  which is of Dutch origin, has
nothing to do with Afrikaners and the history of repression.  My first
teaching job was at an African MIssion School which I went to by choice
as was supposed to be repaying a government loan by teaching at a
government school.  My reason for going there was to find out more
about  African people ,,, not religious, as I am not even a church-goer. I
then won a bursary to study Italian literature in Italy
and returned home to teach, by invitation since my non-racist views
were well-known, at the University of Zululand. One of omy ex-students
is now Minister of Education, and another is Ambassador to France. So,
if Dumain's nasty remarks are aimed at me, then he is tilting at windmills.
I also emigrated and was accepted to teach in Australia, New Zealand,
America and Australia.  I stayed OUT of South Africa because I hated the
oppressors  --- as long as I could., unitl lecturing jobs were no longer
avalable  overseas because the baby-boom ended. I have explained this
before, so those who refuse to  understand the truth obviosuly do so for
their own ulterior reasons and probably are threatened by views
opposed to theirs on Blake.


Date: Mon, 12 Oct 1998 13:54:44 -0500
Subject: Blake's Innocence and Experience
Message-Id: <>

From:	COSMO::TOMDILL      "TOM DILLINGHAM" 11-OCT-1998 15:40:53.70
To:	SMTP%""
Subj:	Blake's Innocence and Experience

Vanessa--your question is so comprehensive that it must be very 
difficult to answer for any serious Blake student.  The two contrary
states of the human soul, innocence and experience, are so central
to Blake's thought that it is rather like asking a biologist to
comment on the meaning of "species" or "evolution," or a chemist
to discuss the importance of "atomic weight" and "valences."  quite
literally, whole books have attempted to respond to your question,
though there are some shorter responses as well.  Much depends on
what kinds of library resources you have available.  There is 
S. Foster Damon's _A Blake Dictionary_, which would give short
answers; there is Stephen Behrendt's _Reading William Blake_ and
there is Michael Ferber's _The Poetry of William Blake_, both of
which provide nice introductory chapters on the subject.  There is
also E.D. Hirsch's _Innocence and Experience_ (which is very 
controversial, but helpful), and Robert Gleckner's _The Piper and
the Bard_, which I think is many people's favorite introductory
book on the subject.
If you cannot find any of these, a careful reading of the poems 
should certainly give you some clues.  Compare "The Lamb" and
"The Tyger" and think of the contrasting ideas of what "the world
" is like in those two poems.  Contrast the two versions of 
"Holy Thursday" and consider the way each looks at the same 
"scene" or phenomena, but from very different perspectives (or
through different lenses, some would say).  The reality is
the same, but the human mind perceives it according to its own
limitations. I personally believe that Blake did not choose one
side or the other--the poems of "experience" do not negate or
reject the poems of "innocence," nor does it work the other way.
They are simply different ways of looking at the same thing, in 
most cases--and the "experienced" view is sometimes apparently 
tied to older people (but there is nothing necessary about the
connection); on the other hand, it is perfectly possible (even likely)
that older people will see (or *choose to see*) the world in an
"innocent" perspective.            
There is much more to the issue you have raised, but if you can
find any of the books I have mentioned (there are many more, of
course) you should get some further guidance.  If you haee 
have questions about specific poems, rather than general categories,
you probably can get more useful answers.
Tom Dillingham


Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 09:08:24 +0200
From: P Van Schaik 
Subject: Bruce Dickinson's "Chemical Wedding" -Reply

I haven't heard the CD but the quotation you provide re  seeing the King
and Queen in the Citadel,  in relation to Alchemy (as the Chemical
Wedding) suggests,  indicates  that the writer/composer  had acute
insight into Blake's and the alchemists'  visions of wholeness - namely, 
that to restore Jerusalem is to restore the QUeen (who is exiled
Jerusalem in Blake ,  or the Shekinah in kabbalaistic lore) to her Groom so
that the divine hierogamy can be restored.  This is to recover the
Philosopher's Stone in Alchemy and to restore divine humanity to the
ETernal Man in Blake and Kabbalah.

Yesterday someone mentioned to me an album featuring  the lines , "To
see a World in a Grain of Sand".... I think he mentioned Nick Drake as the


Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 10:41:40 +0200
From: P Van Schaik 
Subject: Re: understanding of innocence and experience... -Reply

Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 10:18:55 +0200
From: P Van Schaik 
Subject: Re: understanding of innocence and experience... -Reply

>From the responses you have already received, you would have
gathered that  Blakeans interpret Experience and Innocnece in many
ways which pose a problem for the student in that  the views are mostly
contradictory of one another.  Reading the critics will lead you to the
same conclusion probably but should, of course, be part of any serious
study of Blake.
  My own view is that one cannot dismiss the fact that Blake views
Experience as a fallen state since his longer poems evoke symbolically
the 28 phases of the Fall from Innocence. Thus, he sets out to explain,
more compassionately than the Bible and the Priests of this world,  how
all beings who once participated in the divine humanity lost the 
harmonious balance of their souls and plunged into their Selfhoods -- in
which the feminine principle of the soul was separated from the male (a
pre-Jungian animus-anima mental construct).  Blake sees this as a
cosmic tragedy which each of us should try to reverse by practising
selflessness, and by rebuilding Jerusalem in our hearts.  Jesus is his
exemplar of selfless  behaviour, despite the fact that Blake's views are
completely unorthodox. Not to perceive that Blake sees the entire history
of this world as a sad hiatus in the divine events of eternity is to miss the
full scope and range of his imaginative vision which begins in Innocence,
and returns there. 
To understand this  is to grasp the limitations of equating Innocence with
childhoosd and  Experience with age, or any variations of this 
age-related topos.  Blake's stated aim is to transform the soul of the
reader by intimating ways of recovering Innocence;  so, he does not blur
the distinctions between Innocence and Experience, a la Spock,  nor
sanitise ugly behaviour.  HE regards those who perpetuate Falsehoods
in the name of Truth as dehumanised Spectres, and those who vaunt
and flaunt  their power, sexuality, war-mongering delight in hurting
others and creating havoc,  as literally and metaphorically beyond the
pale... that is, as in the fallen state of the soul he designates as
Experience. He also sees that those who do so wear a mask of
respectability and are often  found in the highest  positions of power. ...
such as within the Church itself as Priests, Popes and cardinals, or
sitting on thrones, or teaching in schools and universities.  He tries to
show us how we may recognise such Spectres who aim to overthrow
the divine humanity in others  and elevate themselves to power ... they
are the false  Accusers who sneer at others and seek to strip them of
their liberty to think and act in accord with their deepest spiritual instincts
which  are  aligned with integrity and the desire  to reclaim the lost inner
balance of the soul in which it was in harmony with God. 
  THe Spectres who have fallen into Experience are like the Priest in "The
Little Vagabond" who  is so assured of his own moral superiority that he
is prepared to kill Innocence because he does not even recognise  it in
the form of the child who dares to question his own power and
authority. He is like Urizen, always inscribing in his brazen books of
moral law, the sins of others, and delighting in his own  cruelty to
supposed sinners. For such as these, Blake reserves his contempt, and
urges us to overthrow their altars to false gods whose cruelty is merely
an amplification of the cruelty of those who create such gods in their
own fallen image.  

Blake caricatures such types, because their behaviour is of the same
type in all ages  - found in the Inquisitors who burned so-called
unbelievers and witches at the stake,  in  upholders of oppressive
governments such as Nazi Germany, Apartheid South Africa, but also
lurking with dagger in hand not only in murderers and thieves but  in
civilian life among school-ground bullies  and in  well-appointed business
offices as well as those who assassinate the characters of others in
order to vaunt themselves and get a rise and orgiastic pleasure out of
any misery they can cause to others.  One can also recognise them in
those who always have to create an enemy or victim to despise in order
to wring joy from their lives.  In fact, one finds them everywhere, even
on this on-line group, though  Blake urges us to resist them with heart
and soul for they destroy the peace and freedom of thought and action 
which is our rightful heritage and bring chaos and war to the world.
When you do resist them, they will descend to calling vehemence,
hysteria, and  to gender-based ,  below the belt, manoevres which they
will insist are totally neutral strategies and will try to choke  protests and
silence all support for their victims by stroking the egos of all silent
bystanders. THey  even hope to gain applause for their apparent
cleverness as they `kill' another for their own sport and amusement.
Blake evokes such sado-masochistic delight in his depiction of Vala/
Rahab  and the Whore of Babylon, surrounded by her Warriors and
those who adore the cruelty of the Men of War, drinking the blood of
their victims from silver cups. Years of studying Blake have taught me to
see such people whom one encounters in real life as self-deluded
Spectres, shadows of what they could be if they trusted their full
humanity and accepted the feminine  half of the soul. Despite their
seeming triumph on earth, Blake sees them as Dunces persisting , age
after age, in their State of Error and resorting to fancy abstractions to
disguise their true state of soul.  He sees the way back to Innocence as
regaining  awareness of the dignity and divine humaity residual in all
beings ,  including the Fly, the Lily, the Cloud,  Trees, Herbs, ... and even
all the loathsome  Devourers who feed off the Prolific, like the Worm in
the Rose, and the Dunces who abuse their power to hurt instead of heal.
 I suppose this would include viruses, to answer a question posed by
one on this line.  Nor can the Worm simply be construed, therefore, as a
necessary Contrary. The Devourer is a Negative to be cast off.  Nature
is a fallen image of all that exists in Innocence in Eternity. A close reading
of Blake's poems supports the above statements.



Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 13:26:30 +0200
From: P Van Schaik 
Subject: oothoon and Los

While Blake  certainly wouldn't wear `Oothoon drag' or `Los's sandals'
literally, he does hold both of these characters up as representing those
who preserve the divine vision  of love in time of trouble and to the best
of their ability.  Los labours incessantly to gather the scattered divine
sparks of fire so as to reconstitute  Albion's divine humanity, and
Oothoon laments the loss of the free loves of Eternity in which all
participated in the holy unions of Jesus and Jerusalem. 

Following up on other strands of debate, there is much overlap. surely,
between manifesto and prophecy since to prophesy a return to eternal
Innocence is to believe strongly, and declare that faith,   in acts of
selflessness and transcendence of the ego and in dispelling  the illusion
that the world of Nature  is the only reality. I don't find it difficult therefore
to give Blake's comments on Wordsworth a specific context.  He  does
not find  essential reality, but only transience and imperfection in
"All Forms are Perfect in the Poet's Mind, but these are not abstracted
nor compounded from NAture, but are from Imagination.

The Man who never in his Mind and Thought  travel'd to Heaven i No
Artist."   (Annotations to Reynolds)

THis does not mean depriving the body of  its delight sexually, gustatorily,
or any other way, which those who preach ascetisism see as holy.  It
does, however, exclude acts of cruelty to others, making war on others
in the belief that one is right and the enemy wrong, and imposing false
notions of good and evil on others., etc.  Thus Blake  identifies clearly
with the child persecuted by the moral perceptions of a cruel father, for
example, who would deprive her of sexual fulfilment,  and with the
Sunflower who represents all those deprived of natural fulfilment of their
natural energies.  He also can be seen to  identify with the speaker in
London who is astonished by the universal sorrow of all those subjected
to false visions of God by Urizenic personages and to commercial
exploitation of their energies.  The speaker in this poem seems to
remember a lost world of Innocence in which such things do not happen.
 Where Blake's sympathies lie seems to me to emerge quite clearly 
despite the strategy of adopting personae, and thus, I see no great divide
between poet and speaker, prophecy and credo, muse and poet,  and
thus a very clear distinction between Innocence and Experience is
created.   Redefining good and evil and distinguishing clearly between
false and true teaching in spiritual matters  is surely the central matter
around which Blake's works revolve? 


Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 12:39:24 -0400
From: Matthew Bodie 
Subject: Re: understanding of innocence and experience...
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At 05:20 PM 10/9/98 -0300, you wrote:
>Hey all!
>Does anyone happen to have any ideas on what Blake's understandings of
>the terms "innocence" and "experience"?  I'd really appreciate some


Pam & Tom have done a fine job of giving you a place to start in your search
for the meaning of innocence and experience.  One thing of note, however, that
you will find in some commentaries on the subject is Blake's approbation of
imagination or vision.   

The state of innocence breeds imagination.  There are many examples of this
most notably is the piper, who writes all of the songs with a "rural pen"
formed from a "hollow reed."  That's a pretty amazing feat!  It shows some
serious delving into the imagination.  

Furthermore, Tom Dacre's vision in "Chimney Sweeper" and the relevancy it has
within his everyday life shows a keen sense of vision.   Based upon his dream,
Tom looks beyond the poor nature of his current life, thinking that if he
continues his duty he'll have God as his father and never fear harm.  In
essence, his perspective or vision on life makes him feel comfort.   

Moreover, as you might find in some of the commentary you're reading, Vanessa,
there is a debate about Tom Dacre's vision.  Some say that the vision of the
angel allowed Tom to create a more positive perspective on life; for he is now
able to continue, what once he may have seen as a tragic life, with joy,
knowing that God has replaced the father who sold him off.   Others still see
this vision as no respite from this tragic way of life.  When all is said and
done at the end of the day, he's still a sweep without a father; in addition,
he is prone to physical deformity and ailment from having to climb up in
chimneys that are so narrow a contortionist couldn't even find a way up their
aperture, or so full of soot that they make a smoker's lung looks healthy.
what a fallacious picture _Mary Poppins_ paints with its whole carefree nature
of the life of a sweep!)    

Also, some critics will take up the argument that the angel is part of the
schema of the God-priest-king unit that Blake seems to repudiate in his other
works, for he seemed to see Christendom to be tainted by the church-state
union.   Instead of focusing on Jesus or his selfless nature that every person
should follow as we all are created in his image, many so-called
Christians, in
Blake's view, displayed piety only when necessary; otherwise, they were
insincere and uncompassionate.  Seemingly, Christianity was more a matter of

At any rate, no matter which way you look at it, Dacre does seem to have quite
a vision.  If it is to be concluded from Blake's writings that joy is one of
the most desirable things to have in the state of innocence, and more than
likely it is, then Dacre found it, either way, through vision.

In contrast to the state of innocence, however, is the state of experience.
doesn't concentrate on vision or imagination as  innocence does.   For
instance, Dacre finds comfort in his circumstances through his own sense of
imagination, but Lyca doesnít seem to do the same.   She is lost, and she only
continues to fear what lurks about; for it could be the scornful priests, the
bright tyger,  a selfish pebble, or as it turns out, an equivocal lion.  
Perhaps if Lyca were in the state of innocence, she could have found God, as
the little boy lost did; but experience does not lend her to such faith, such

I do, however, concede with Glecknerís point of view (_Piper and the Bard_)
that one must exist in the state of experience at  some point in time, or
perhaps more often than not,  in order to move forward to a higher
Much of Blakeís thought here seems to be based on redemption through Jesus and
the byproducts of his incarnation:  selflessness & imagination.  In one of the
poems in the Songs of Innocence (Iím sorry I donít have the text  in front of
me right this moment), the mother cries over her infant, for he/she reminds
of Christ and his infancy,  and his ensuing life & death.  The mother knows
that her infant must face similar happiness and similar woes, but
redemption/higher innocence is attainable; so it's a weeping of both joy &

I hope this helps some, despite its discursiveness.



Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 16:08:19 EDT
Subject: In defense of the Worm
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In "Re: understanding of innocence and experience... -Reply-Forwarded," Pam
Van Schaik wrote: 

>[Blake] sees the way back to Innocence as
>regaining  awareness of the dignity and divine humanity residual in all
>beings ,  including the Fly, the Lily, the Cloud,  Trees, Herbs, ... and even
>all the loathsome  Devourers who feed off the Prolific, like the Worm in
>the Rose, and the Dunces who abuse their power to hurt instead of heal...

>...Nor can the Worm simply be construed, therefore, as a
>necessary Contrary. The Devourer is a Negative to be cast off.  Nature
>is a fallen image of all that exists in Innocence in Eternity.  A close
>of Blake's poems supports the above statements.

I would be interested in seeing what passages support the latter part of the
above statements, Pam:  That is, I'm with you as far as "regaining awareness
of the dignity and divine humanity residual in all beings, ... including ...
even... Devourers ... like the Worm," but I don't see how you get from this to
"The Devourer is a Negative to be cast off."

My own readings of Blake have heretofore led me to think that the Devourer is
indeed a Contrary, not a Negation, as it clearly is in _The Marriage of Heaven
and Hell._  And perhaps this issue is at the heart of the often muddy debate
between you and Ralph Dumain -- for it seems to me that your vision of
Eternity (at least as I perceive it through your descriptions) is rather more
static in its perfect Innocence than Blake's is: it sounds/feels to me more
like Beulah.  In my reading, Blake's primary description of Eternity is the
passage in _Milton_, Book 2, about Eternity as a place of mental war and
hunting, where through the clash of individual views, we "build the universe
stupendous mental forms creating."  Are there indeed Contraries in your vision
of Eternity?  For I think there are in Blake's.

It is true that, long after _MHH_, Blake introduces the concept of the Three
Classes (Reprobate, Redeemed, and Elect) in _Milton_; and that the Elect, like
Satan, are there called Negations because they refuse to allow for the clash
of Contraries -- their Word is Law, and it freezes debate.  But I don't see
how that would apply to the Worm, nor to the Devourer as envisioned in _MHH_.
It would quite throw off the ecology of things if worms were cast out -- we
could drown in Roses, or worse.  "I have said to the Worm, thou art my Mother
and my Sister...".

--Tom Devine


Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 15:45:34 -0700 (PDT)
From: Josh First 
Subject: continental prophesies
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Does anybody have thoughts about whether or not there
is a connection among Oothoon in Visions of the
Daughters of Albion, the Shadowy Female in America's
Preludium and the Eternal Female in Europe's
Preludium?  I'm struggling with the idea of Oothoon
being the "soul of America", perhaps representing the
masses of opressed peoples, which is futher confirmed
at the bottom of Plate 15 of America, which would in
turn better labeled the Eternal Female.  Also you
have in Visions of the Daughters of Albion the image
of the bird devouring Oothoon; likewise in America, a
bird is devouring some sort of armoured, dead female.
 Is this supposed to also be Oothoon?  At the end of
Europe, Oothoon is mentioned, which sort of disproves
any connection.  But maybe the Eternal Female is
given the name Oothoon only after she recieves a
vioce, which is given to her by Orc's release in
America's Preludium; and Visions happens after
America???  I guess it's really impossible to be
linear with Blake.
Joshua First

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End of blake-d Digest V1998 Issue #77