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