Saturday, January 16, 2010

Close Reading of "Songs"

Poetry has never been a strong point of mine as far as identifying symbols and meanings and looking at the use of the words and the syntax of each of the lines in order to find the bigger more meaningful picture. Romantic poetry is then even more challenging for me because of the language it is written in and all the words and phrases that in this time period, mean very little to me. With that being said, one thing I find very useful in helping me to bring some sort of intelligence to discussions and a greater understanding of the poetry is reading different literary criticisms and critical essays about the works of literature that I am struggling to pick apart myself. I also enjoy other's perspectives about meaning and symbols and sometimes it can open the eyes to themes or ideas that you otherwise may have looked over.

After reading "Songs of Innocence and of Experience" by William Blake, I felt as if I would go to class right then, I would have no comment to make about the poems other than, "Yes I enjoyed them" or "No I did not." Thinking back to our first class and thinking about one of our main objectives in the class being, "close reading," I realized that if I was going to succeed in understanding the time period and what Blake was trying to portray through his poetry that I should do some outside research to better help me understand.

One poem that I thoroughly enjoyed was, "The Chimney Sweeper" and I decided to start my research there, stumbling across a critical essay by Harriet Kramer Linkin entitled "The Language of Speakers in Songs of Innocence and Experience". As I was reading "Innocence and Experience" I was trying to understand which one seemed to have more childlike wonder (Innocence) and the poems of "Experience" did not. It was unclear to me the use of words and their meanings and how it was playing a role in the way that each of the poems are perceived and read and how the two different "versions," meaning "Innocence" and "Experience" were alike but also different.

Linkin makes a great point in of stating why "Innocence" is perceived as being more childlike, by saying that "Blake correlates syntactic structures with patterns of thinking," which immediately struck interest in me on the idea of "close reading." After reading further, Linkin explains that Blake's use of "conjunctions" really classifies the writing between the two different versions as being childlike and more mature. Linkin goes on to say, "Like many young children, the narrator systematically employs a great number of conjunctions: in addition to using "and" fifteen times within six stanzas, he also connects his clauses with "so," "thought," "for," "if," "when," "then," and "while."

This is a great example of the difference between the "Innocence" and the "Experience" poems and how the meanings of words and their use can be interpreted. Although I would never have picked up on this on my own, now my knowledge is a little bit more advanced and I understand not only the meaning of "The Chimney Sweeper" more but also between some of the other poems in each of the versions.

No comments: