Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among Beneath them sit the aged men wise guardians of the poor Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door
In general, Blake’s prevailing voices are those of the poet-shepherd in Innocence and of the prophet-bard in Experience. However, alternate voices occasionally appear in both collections. In the Innocence poem “Holy Thursday,” the last stanza suggests that the voice shifts from caring adult to prophet-bard, as the lines issue a warning about caring for the children. In light of other details provided in the poem, such as those that hint at the orphans’ controlled existence, the term “wise guardians of the poor” rings with a bitter tone.
And what shoulder, & what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain, In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp, Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
In “The Tyger,” the bard celebrates the divine force that created a dreaded and deadly beast. In the third and fourth stanzas, Blake personifies this force as a blacksmith, heating material in a furnace and then hammering and twisting the molten substance into shape. The strong beat and repetition of words give the lyrics a martial tone. Contrasts between the metallic image and the organic result and between beauty and terror add tension to the stanzas.
Soon spreads the dismal shade Of Mystery over his head; And the Catterpiller and Fly, Feed on the Mystery. And it bears the fruit of Deceit, Ruddy and sweet to eat; And the Raven his nest has made In its thickest shade.
“The Human Abstract,” from Experience, functions as the counterpoint to “The Divine Image” in Innocence. Here, the fourth and fifth stanzas extend the metaphor of a tree, introduced in the third stanza, where the tree is rooted in humility. The tree alludes to the story of Adam and Eve. The caterpillar and fly represent decay and death. The gods search all over creation for this tree, a tree that yields mystery and deceit and all related elements, only to find the tree inside the human brain. Such an idea implies that all ills that befall humankind are self-inflicted.
How the Chimney-sweepers cry Every black’ning Church appalls, And the hapless Soldiers sigh Runs in blood down Palace walls
In “London,” the prophet-bard protests the evils he sees in the city. This third stanza stands as a particularly good example of Blake’s economy of language. He draws attention to the plight of young workers, the pollution of city air, the near-servitude of common soldiers, and the complicity of religion and monarchy—all in four lines and twenty simple words. Rich visual imagery and connotative words make this compactness possible.