Do Songs of Innocence and Experience need to be read together?.
Songs of Innocence and Experience are a series of poems on how we see the world at different stages of our lives. The fact that Blake himself described the collection of poems as shewing the contrary states of the human soul', must be seen as an invitation to view the poems of Innocence and Experience in relation to one another. .
Both collections contain poems of a similar title, such as The Chimney Sweeper THE Chimney Sweeper and Nurse's song NURSE'S Song , and as the slight difference in title suggests; the poems in Songs of Experience contain an alternative perspective to the versions in Songs of Innocence.
Each collection shows comparative images of children, babies, religion and the general world in which we live, and how we see things differently when we are first in a state of innocence and when we reach maturity. The poems are presentations of a contradiction between innocence and experience, two areas of life through which we all must pass and are, in initial appearance at least, very similar to the genre of late eighteenth-century children's poetry, in terms of theme, title and simplicity. The subject matter of the poems would have been familiar at the time, with titles such as The Lamb and The Divine Image sounding like childrens' hymns. .
A point to make about the apparent simplicity of Blake's poems is that they are deliberate (in an attempt to simplify the moral dilemmas of the time and present them in a form which could be understood). Ironically, the Songs of Experience are somewhat simpler in the way that the speaker of the poem is the voice of experience, warning the innocence about the futility of life. Songs of Innocence show life through the eyes of innocent children, whilst Songs of Experience demonstrate an older person's cynical view of the pain and terror in the world.
Sometimes the innocent, simple perspective found in Songs of Innocence overlaps into the style of the poems in Songs of Experience, signifying perhaps that the two states of the human soul are even more intertwined than the poems originally suggest.