Infant Sorrow - Imagery, symbolism and themes
Imagery and symbolism
Child – Infant Sorrow depends upon the reader's ideas about children. In Blake's time, new-born children could be seen as images of innocence, as in Infant Joy and in Cradle song. In the New Testament, Jesus says that the kingdom of God belongs to those who become like little children in their innocence and humility. Some Christians believed that children arrived fresh from God and thus retain their memory of him, an idea popular with the Romantics. Children, therefore, reflect the creativity and goodness of God. Followers of Rousseau would see a baby as naturally good and with an innate capacity to learn and grow, which society's demands crush and distort. (See Social / political background > The spirit of rebellion – politics.)
Other Christians in Blake's day believed that children came into the world as inheritors of original sin, so were ‘bad' until they had accepted personal salvation.
In this poem, the baby is seen as being filled with energy and instinctual life which can appear negative and destructive. However, according to Blake, these are positive attributes, so when he uses the term ‘fiend', it is not with its usual negative connotations.
Piping / cloud – This echoes the first poem in Songs of Innocence, but the infant's loud wailing, and knowing awareness of the negative aspects of the world here, is a world away from the innocence of the child in the cloud of Introduction (I). Similarly, there is a marked contrast to the ‘cloud' of the earthly body which contains an innocent soul in The Little Black Boy, and the fiendish contents of the cloud in Infant Sorrow.
Bound – Tightly wrapping new-born babies in swaddling bands was common practice in Blake's day, as a means of giving a feeling of security and of helping the limbs to grow straight. Here Blake uses it as an image of parental oppression, against which any self-respecting individual would struggle. However, the child remains bound, as well as metaphorically confined by the strictures of its parents and society's expectations.
Investigating imagery and symbolism
- Make a list of other poems which use the image of snares and confinement, noting the literal and metaphorical meanings intended.
The perception of children
- Is the child born free and good, as Rousseau believed, or born sinful, as the CalvinistChristians believed?
- Or is this opposition the result of fallen human beings' inability to recognise that the capacity for good and evil both belong to humanity?
Blake's idea that a young child can clearly see God echoes the Romantic sensibility articulated by Wordsworth, that children had an existence in heaven before the commencement of their earthly life. See The world of the Romantics > Making sense of the intangible world > Seventeenth and eighteenth attitudes to childhood.
Blake saw the natural child as an image of the creative imagination which is the human being's spiritual core. He was concerned about the way in which social institutions such as the school system and parental authority crushed the capacity for imaginative vision. The child's capacity for happiness and play are expressions of this imagination. Any restraint can feel like an attempt to stifle creativity. This is the dilemma of the child who is necessarily subject to the parent's care.
How the human mind sees the nature of the world and its creator
According to Blake, ‘contraries' are facts about the world and about the nature of the creative force behind it. Heaven and Hell impinge on human experience. Thus the powerful energies within the world and the energies and instincts within human beings are necessary and beautiful. They become destructive when they are either denied or seen as the sole factor in life and experience. Blake's sub-theme is that vision based wholly on experience is as incomplete as the inadequacy of ignorant innocence.
Parental care and authority
In Blake's work, parents are often perceived as inhibiting and repressing their children. Their own fears and shame are communicated to the next generation through the parental desire to ‘protect' children from their desires. According to Blake, parents misuse ‘care' to repress children and bind them to themselves, rather than setting the children free by rejoicing in, and safeguarding, their capacity for play and imagination. Here, the response of the parents is equivocal but even the most neutral care has the potential for being perceived as restraint.
A 'testament' is a covenant (binding agreement), a term used in the Bible of God's relationship with his people. The New Testament is the second part of the Christian Bible. Its name comes from the new covenant or relationship with God.
The name given to the man believed by Christians to be the Son of God. Also given the title Christ, meaning 'anointed one' or Messiah. His life is recorded most fully in the Four Gospels.
Kingdom of God (also called the Kingdom of Heaven). The central theme in the teaching of Jesus. Refers to God's rule and power at work among people who accept his authority in their lives.
The Bible describes God as the unique supreme being, creator and ruler of the universe.
Those poets following the tenets of Romanticism, but often confined to the period 1780-1830.
State of disobedience to - and alienation from - God believed to have characterised human beings since the Fall of Adam and Eve.
In the Bible, salvation is seen as God's commitment to save or rescue his people from sin (and other dangers) and to establish his kingdom.
the associated meanings of a word; its implications
Disobedience to the known will of God. According to Christian theology human beings have displayed a pre-disposition to sin since the Fall of Humankind.
Followers of the Swiss reformer John Calvin, and his theology.
Name originally given to disciples of Jesus by outsiders and gradually adopted by the Early Church.
The disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Bible is known as the Fall of Humankind. Christians believe that humans from then on have had a a predispostion to disobey God.
(1775-1850) He was born in the Lake District and was one of the leading Romantic poets.
In many religions, the place where God dwells, and to which believers aspire after their death. Sometimes known as Paradise.
...Infant/Toddler Observation Reflection For my assignment, I observed at the daycare program housed inside my church called Gateway To Learning (2930 Rayford Rd., Spring, TX 77386), a Christian childcare provider for ages 6-weeks to fourth grade (after school). There are currently 185 children enrolled in the GTL program, including after-schoolers. GTL employs approximately 50 people, not including substitute teachers. The teacher:student ratios are as follows: ages 6 weeks to 12 months – 4:1, 12 to 18 months – 5:1, 18 to 24 months – 9:1, 2 year olds – 11:1, 3 year olds – 15:1, and four year olds – 18:1. All of the teachers must be CPR certified, First Aid certified, and trained in SIDS, shaken baby syndrome, infant brain development, and child abuse. I was placed in the infant room with babies 6-weeks to one year. The room was set up well. There were eight cribs and/or pack-and-plays aligned around the walls of the room with allowed for easy movement of teachers and crawlers. In the center of the room was a bright, primary color plat mat that the little ones loved rolling around on. There were also bouncers and jumper play toys for the kids to hop inside and have fun with. In one corner of the room was the changing table, kitchenette for warming milk and mixing baby cereal, and refrigerator for storage. There was ample storage space in the kitchenette and the entrances were blocked with childproof gates. Each child has a cubby to...