William Blake Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Infant Sorrow 1794, reprinted 1831 or later

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Artwork details

Artist
William Blake 1757–1827
Title
Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Infant Sorrow
Date 1794, reprinted 1831 or later
Medium Relief etching on paper
Dimensions Image: 112 x 97 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Presented by Mrs John Richmond 1922
Reference
A00035
On display at Tate Britain

Display caption

This poem is a contrast to 'Infant Joy' from 'Songs of Innocence'. The child is a person. Accompanied by pain and tears he is born into a dangerous world, though the trappings of comfort and prosperity around his bed belie this. Even in his first natural state of naked helplessness the child conceals what parents and others would regard as an evil spirit ('fiend'). The pressures of conformity ('my swaddling bands') will release this spirit in 'struggling' and 'striving against'. The act of sulking on his mother's breast suggests only a brief respite before the 'fiend' (properly, the child's true individuality) finally asserts itself in adulthood.

July 1994

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