Infant Joy - Language, tone and structure
Language and tone
The effect of this poem is to produce simplicity by the repetition of a few key words – ‘sweet', ‘happy', ‘joy' – and words associated with these – ‘smile' and ‘sing'. The lines:
‘I happy am,
Joy is my name.'
succinctly express the unity in a child between its nature and its identity. The baby is joy. When this is followed by the speaker's wish for joy to befall him/her, it suggests that the speaker acknowledges that this joy is not guaranteed. The baby has entered a world in which its nature may come into contradiction with its experience.
Investigating language and tone
- Try replacing the repeated words with a variety of other synonyms
- What effect does this have on the tone and mood of the poem?
Structure and versification
The poem relies for its effects on the patterning with difference of very few words – ‘joy' occurs six times in twelve lines, ‘sweet' four times. Although there are two stanzas, each stanza actually falls into two matching halves. Phrases are repeated: ‘but two days old', ‘I call thee'. This gives the stanza a rocking-effect, suggesting a lullaby. The repetition of the closing line acts as a refrain and adds to this song-like quality.
Investigating structure and versification
- Find a lullaby and examine its patterning.
- Compare it with patterning here.
A word that has essentially the same meaning as another one.
Essay on Infant Sorrow by William Blake
- Length: 447 words (1.3 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Infant Sorrow by William Blake is about the birth of a child into a dangerous world. The meaning behind this poem is that when a baby is born, they are entering a place that is unfamiliar to them and is full of hazardous circumstances and then seeks for safety and comfort by sulking on the mother's breast. Instead of blatantly telling the reader, Blake uses several poetic devices to deliver the meaning of Infant Sorrow. Some of the devices he uses are images, sound, figurative language, and the structure to bring out the meaning of his poem.
The entire poem uses images to enlighten its meaning. For example, in lines 2-3, "Into the dangerous world I leapt: Helpless naked piping loud..." Blake writes in such a way that allows the reader to see the change that takes place, when a baby enters this world. The poem reveals that it is not a pleasant and peaceful entrance, but an unkind and dishonest world that the innocent is forced to come into. Also, lines 5-6, "Struggling in my fathers hands: Striving against my swaddling bands..." give the reader vivid images. In these lines, the reader can see the baby squirming and trying to move in the tightly wrapped blanket. This shows how the baby will have to go through many struggles in life and the parents will try to protect the child and try to hold the child back from all the harms and troubles that he or she might have to go through.
Blake also uses sound to deliver the meaning to the poem. The poem starts off with "My mother groaned! my father wept." You can hear the sounds that the parents make when their child has entered this world. Instead of joyful sounds like cheer or cries of joy, Blake chooses words that give a meaning that it is not such a good thing that this baby was brought into this world. The mother may groan because of the pain of delivery, but she also groans because she knows about horrible things in this world that the child will have to go through. The father also weeps for the same reason, he knows that the child is no longer in the safety of the womb, but now is in the world to face many trials and tribulations.
Another poetic device Blake uses is figurative language.
How to Cite this Page
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Line 4 reads "Like a fiend hid in a cloud." This line is a simile comparing how the baby enters the world. The baby is seen as an evil spirit or demon hiding in the clouds. This is quite different from how most people perceive a baby at birth.
Blake also uses the structure of the poem as a tool to convey the meaning of the poem. First, the separation of the two stanzas, the first being the actual birth of the baby and the second stanza being the after birth. This separates the baby's journey into this dangerous world with the second stanza being the first challenges of life. The poem begins with many problems and struggles of the baby's first moments of life and ends with the baby finding safety and comfort with the mother in the last line, "To sulk upon my mothers breast." The way this is laid out has an effect on the meaning of the poem. This explains to the reader that through all the struggles that life may bring, the mother is the one that will be there for comfort and support.
Although the poem is only 8 lines long, there is a deep meaning to the poem. Blake uses different poetic devices, such as imagery, sound, figurative language, and structure to his advantage to reveal what he wants to be said through this poem. He allows the reader to see, hear, and understand what a baby goes through once it enters the chaos of this world.