Infant Sorrow, William Blake: Analysis & Summary

"Infant Sorrow" by William Blake presents a poignant exploration of the vulnerability and helplessness of a newborn child. Through vivid imagery and concise language, the poem delves into the immediate experiences and emotions of an infant entering the world.

Infant Sorrow by William Blake

My mother groaned, my father wept:
Into the dangerous world I leapt,
Helpless, naked, piping loud,
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.
Struggling in my father’s hands,
Striving against my swaddling-bands,
Bound and weary, I thought best
To sulk upon my mother’s breast.

Critical Analysis

"Infant Sorrow" encapsulates the immediate experience of a newborn child's entrance into the world. The poem's concise verses capture the raw emotions and sensations of the infant's initial moments. The poem opens with contrasting images of the mother's groaning and the father's weeping, reflecting a mix of pain and sorrow surrounding the birth.

The child's arrival is depicted as a leap into a "dangerous world," emphasizing the vulnerability and uncertainty of existence. The use of "Helpless, naked, piping loud" creates a vivid picture of the infant's state, crying out loudly and being utterly defenseless. The simile "Like a fiend hid in a cloud" further underscores the sense of disorientation and unfamiliarity.

The physical struggle of the infant, "Struggling in my father’s hands, Striving against my swaddling-bands," suggests an immediate desire for autonomy and independence. However, this struggle is met with weariness and defeat, leading the child to seek comfort and solace by "sulking" on the mother's breast.

Themes of the Poem

  • Vulnerability and Helplessness: The poem explores the fragile state of a newborn infant, highlighting the initial challenges and uncertainties of life.
  • Contrast: The poem contrasts the harshness of the world with the desire for comfort and safety.
  • Desire for Autonomy: The infant's struggles and attempts to break free from constraints reflect the innate human desire for independence.

Stylistic Analysis

  • Imagery: The poem employs vivid imagery to evoke the immediate sensory experiences of the newborn child.
  • Contrast: The juxtaposition of images and emotions creates a dynamic and evocative portrayal of the infant's journey.
  • Concise Language: The poem's brevity enhances its impact, allowing each word to carry significant weight.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Vulnerability: The poem conveys a sense of vulnerability and fragility associated with the newborn's entry into the world.
  • Desire for Comfort: The infant's seeking solace on the mother's breast reflects a yearning for safety and reassurance.

Language

  • Simile: The simile "Like a fiend hid in a cloud" adds an element of mystery and unease to the depiction of the newborn's emergence.
  • Imagery: The vivid imagery, such as "piping loud" and "swaddling-bands," creates a sensory-rich portrayal of the infant's experience.

Sound Devices

  • Alliteration: The repetition of sounds in phrases like "helpless, naked" and "struggling, striving" adds a rhythmic quality to the poem.
  • Rhyme: The rhyme scheme contributes to the poem's musicality, enhancing its lyrical and reflective tone.

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