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A Guide to William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience

Jonathan Peel | Monday October 03, 2011

Categories: Hot Entries, Poetry, Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience, Writing, Poetry Analysis

Associated Resources

  • Blake - Innocent Sweep.ppt
  • Blake - Experience Sweep.ppt
  • Blake - Holy Thursday.ppt

Introducing William Blake



The course discussed in these notes is designed as a short course of enrichment and development of skills of poetry analysis based in a personal response to pairs of poems from the Songs of Innocence and Experience.

It is not designed to cover too many of the poems, but rather to spark interest and enthusiasm.

It can be used as part of a cross-curricular activity and benefits from a high level of creativity.

The major strands covered:

  • Poetic form in analysis and recognised and interpreted in the annotated artwork
  • Personal response
  • Language choice for effect
  • A simple introduction to Romanticism

As an extension, students can be encouraged to look at their own towns/cultures in a similar manner and time might be given to comparing media portrayals of localities or events as opposed to the feelings of those living in the area.


I have found time recently to introduce William Blake into Year 8 or 9. My students sit an exam in the summer which has focused in part on an appreciation of London, as an unseen poem.  The question has followed the WJEC GCSE model – “write about this poem and its effect on you…? and students are being encouraged to respond to the writing as well as to recognise key poetic devices and their effects.  It is worth stressing at this time that focus on effects of devices is vital.  This is not a game of I-spy and whilst technical language is welcome, it is by no means an end in itself.

To prepare the students for the exam I work for a few lessons on two pairs of poems from The Songs of Innocence and Experience – the Chimney Sweeps and the Holy Thursdays.  I use other poems as time allows – notably The Divine Image and the Human Abstract, though this does push the unit into a longer time and greater depth than is sometimes ideal.

Students are asked to address...

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