Preface: This is the first poem for the challenge hosted at bookwookey. I don't pretend to be any good at poetry analysis; I took one class in college on writing poetry, because I needed an arts credit to graduate, and I can't draw. My most extensive experience with poetry is memorising famous Russian ones; that started me off, and now I enjoy memorising English ones as well. So, for me the most important thing about a poem is that I enjoy how it sounds; I tend to not worry about the meaning. Keep that in mind as you read my desperate, fumbling attempts over the next week.
"A Cradle Song" by William Blake
(note...here's the original with engravings)
Sweet dreams, form a shade
O'er my lovely infant's head!
Sweet dreams of pleasant streams
By happy, silent, moony beams!
Sweet Sleep, with soft down
Weave thy brows an infant crown!
Sweet Sleep, angel mild,
Hover o'er my happy child!
Sweet smiles, in the night
Hover over my delight!
Sweet smiles, mother's smiles,
All the livelong night beguiles.
Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,
Chase not slumber from thy eyes!
Sweet moans, sweeter smiles,
All the dovelike moans beguiles.
Sleep, sleep, happy child!
All creation slept and smiled.
Sleep, sleep, happy sleep,
While o'er thee thy mother weep.
Sweet babe, in thy face
Holy image I can trace;
Sweet babe, once like thee
Thy Maker lay, and wept for me:
Wept for me, for thee, for all,
When He was an infant small.
Thou His image ever see,
Heavenly face that smiles on thee!
Smiles on thee, on me, on all,
Who became an infant small;
Infant smiles are His own smiles;
Heaven and earth to peace beguiles.
I have to admit: I didn't expect to enjoy William Blake. I really don't like his paintings (number one reason-the colours), so I've always avoided his poetry. When I saw the Poetry Challenge, though, I thought that now would be as good a time as ever to tackle Songs of Innocence and Experience. After all, I feel that everyone *ought* to have read Blake, even if they don't enjoy him! So, imagine my surprise when I found his poetry to be beautiful, and evocative, and touching! For the challenge, I read the whole collection. For posting, however, I'm going to choose one from each part. Why'd I pick "A Cradle Song"? Well, I live with my baby niece, and as soon as I read through the poem, it just jumped at me.
The poem starts out soft and happy...
the first three stanzas are filled with adjectives like sweet, mild, pleasant. The mother seems to be friends with who she's addressing (dreams, sleep, smiles); the baby seems in a good place.
The fourth stanza continues with the soothing diction...
making the reader feel safe, but the addition of the word "moans" introduces something else.
Then, the fifth stanza approaches. It starts out quite positive: Blake repeats the word happy, but that's just him lulling the reader so that the jolt of the last line is all the sharper: "while o'er thee thy mother weep." After almost being rocked to sleep in perfect harmony, Blake goes back on the reader's trust. Now, it seems the mother is unhappy.
However, the closing stanzas clarify this. The mother is thinking about God, and when God became a baby. I'm fairly certain it's not a huge leap to assume that would be Jesus. ;) It closes on a feel-good, Jesus loves us kind of note.
In case you couldn't tell, I like the poem more when you chop off the last three stanzas. That way, you have the really strong (because unexpected) line ending the poem. However, I'm sure that Blake had a point to make; a quick minute at Wikipedia informed me that Blake liked Jesus, but didn't like the Church. Hmmm..apparently he developed his own religion and mythology. Quite interesting. (can you tell we never discussed Blake in my high school? I feel like my complete ignorance about him is embarrasing me) So, I suppose his Jesus references weren't ironic; they were a real sign of his beliefs. You have to admit, it's a nice belief-very rosy. Perhaps that's why this poem was from Songs of Innocence. ;)
Ok, I think I've rambled on long enough. I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to be doing for the Poetry Challenge (I was half tempted to just post the poem and tell people to read it), so I hope I've done my duty. This is definitely a poem that I'll memorise. Perhaps after this challenge I'll be so addicted to poetry that I'll start posting a poem a week. But without the analysis.