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Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – February 5, 1992
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I don’t completely understand why some people choose to take the classics, respect them for what they are on the shelf, and then shove them into a box in the back of the closet. I understand that some may feel the classics are a little over analyzed, but the more you read them, the more you comprehend them and the more you understand how very important they are in the grand scheme of the literary world.
Hence why I pulled my weathered copy of the illustrated version of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience from the shelf and attempted to decipher it for the ump-tenth time. Essentially, the book is a two-part collection of William Blake’s poems. The first section of poems contains sweet, childish poems written from the perspectives of either children, or adults speaking to children. Common repetitive elements include those of lambs, cherubs, and other sweet items, such as flowers, birds, or other small creatures. Totally contrary to the first sections, the experience section makes the innocence sections look like Justin Bieber in comparison to Marilyn Manson. Think sex, death, anger, murder, and betrayal. In short, Blake revolutionized the approachable concepts of poetry. His experience section is essentially a summary of the life and styles we find totally acceptable today. However, for it’s time, this was completely disgusting and unexplainable.
Part of the glory of this book comes from the way in which you read it. If you read it with the mindset of someone in the twenty-first century, this is nothing special and Fifty Shades of Gray did the whole screwed up relationships thing much better. However, if you approach this collection of work with the mindset of a nobleman or a noblewoman from the eighteenth or nineteenth century, everything becomes just that much more interesting.
Critique-wise, in my particular copy, the Oxford edition, the publishers printed the illustrations side-by side with the poems printed on the back. However, this makes for inconvenient and confusing reading when the poems are split as the illustrations originally were. Perhaps the publishers should have printed an illustration with a translation directly next to the poem, since the images are essential in the reading and comprehension process.
I highly recommend this book for art lovers, poetry fanatics, or those who love to explore the scandal of centuries gone past.