Infant Sorrow

Infant Sorrow

By William Blake

My Mother groand! my father wept.
Into the dangerous world I leapt:
Helpless, naked, piping loud;
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.

Struggling in my fathers hands:
Striving against my swaddling bands:
Bound and weary I thought best
To sulk upon my mothers breast.

Summary of Infant Sorrow

  • Popularity of “Infant Sorrow”: Written by the greatest English Romantic poet, William Blake, this short and concise poem first appeared in 1794. He included it in his world-famous and popular collection, Songs of Experience. Interestingly, a poem demonstrating contradictory ideas with another title was published back in 1789. This poem shows the main idea of how a father and mother bring a child into this world but through the perspective of a child. The popularity of the poem lies in its presentation of the first-person account of an infant.
  • “Infant Sorrow” As a Representative Child’s Perspective: The speaker of the poem is the child himself. He states that his mother and father have suffered much to bring him into this world. When he was born, he recalls the painful groans of his mother and the weeping of his father. However, the next words that he has come into a dangerous world are fraught with risk as well as playfulness. The child recalls his struggle at the hands of his father. When he goes to his mother, he finds solace and comfort lying on the breast of his mother. This interesting birth makes one feel the innocence and love associated with a child but with a devilish outlook.
  • Major Themes in “Infant Sorrow”: Parental love, comfort in the mother’s lap and the father’s discomforting grip are major themes of this poem interwoven with the fiend-like self-admission of the child. The poet has not mindlessly used words. He is highly parsimonious in using words, putting them in the mouth of the child who thinks that he has entered the dangerous world in his natural state like a fiend but after giving tough time to his parents who have wept and groaned to bring him into this world. Yet, the discomfort he has felt in the grip of his father soothes away after he sulks upon the breast of his mother. This is where he finds solace. The whole world of complexes, such as of Oedipus or Electra, has been packed in just these two stanzas.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Infant Sorrow

William Blake’s matchlessness in poetic putout lies in using literary devices. A few devices are as follows.

  1. Asyndeton: This literary device shows things or ideas, or nouns connected without any conjunction. The poem shows the use of asyndeton, such as; “Helpless, naked, piping loud.” There is no use of conjunction in this verse.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /o/ in “My mother groand! my father wept” and the sound of /o/ in “Into the dangerous world I leapt.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /r / in “Into the dangerous world I leapt” and the sound of /l/ and /p/ in “Helpless, naked, piping loud.”
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. William Blake used imagery in this poem, such as “Like a fiend hid in a cloud”, “Struggling in my fathers hands” and “Striving against my swaddling bands.”
  5. Simile: It means a direct comparison between things to clarify the meanings of one thing. The poem shows the use of a simile, such as “Like a fiend hid in a cloud.” The child is comparing himself to a devil.
  6. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols such as the world, naked, fiend and cloud to show the innocence of a child.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Infant Sorrow

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows good use of formal, poetic, and melodic diction.
  2. End Rhyme: It means to use verses having matching end words. William Blake shows the use of end rhyme such as wept/leapt and loud/cloud.
  3. Quatrain: It is a Persian stanza having four verses. This poem has two quatrains.
  4. Rhyme Scheme: The poem shows the rhyme scheme of ABAB in both stanzas.
  5. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are two stanzas, each comprising four verses.
  6. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows a loving, alluring, charming and playful tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when a child tells how he is born, using a playful tone to describe one’s birth.

My Mother groand! my father wept.
Into the dangerous world I leapt:
Helpless, naked, piping loud;
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.

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