Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss William Blake's collection of illustrated poems "Songs of Innocence and of Experience." He published Songs of Innocence first in 1789 with five hand-coloured copies and, five years later, with additional Songs of Experience poems and the explanatory phrase "Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul." Blake drew on the street ballads and improving children's rhymes of the time, exploring the open and optimistic outlook of early childhood with the darker and more cynical outlook of adult life, in which symbols such as the Lamb belong to innocence and the Tyger to experience.


Sir Jonathan Bate
Provost of Worcester College, University of Oxford

Sarah Haggarty
Lecturer at the Faculty of English and Fellow of Queens' College, University of Cambridge


Jon Mee
Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Release date:

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 23 Jun 2016 21:30

Related topics


Sir Jonathan Bate at the University of Oxford

Sarah Haggarty at the University of Cambridge

Jon Mee at the University of York

The William Blake Archive

William Blake – Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians - British Library

William Blake profile – British Library

William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience – British Library

The Notebook of William Blake – British Library

William Blake – Wikipedia



Peter Ackroyd, Blake (Vintage, 1996)

Morris Eaves (ed.), A Cambridge Companion to William Blake (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Heather Glen, Vision and Disenchantment: Blake’s Songs and Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads (Cambridge University Press, 1983)

Sarah Haggarty and Jon Mee, William Blake: Songs of Innocence and of Experience - A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

Zachary Leader, Reading Blake’s Songs (Routledge & Kegan Paul Books, 1981)

Saree Makdisi, Reading William Blake (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

Michael Phillips, William Blake and the Creation of the Songs: From Manuscript to Illuminated Printing (The British Library, 2000)

E. P. Thompson, Witness against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law (Cambridge University Press, 1993)



Role Contributor
PresenterMelvyn Bragg
Interviewed GuestJonathan Bate
Interviewed GuestSarah Haggarty
Interviewed GuestJon Mee
ProducerSimon Tillotson

Featured in...

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

Hildegard of Bingen

If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start.

The Matter of the North


Melvyn Bragg explores the pivotal role of England's north in shaping modern Britain.

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

Arts and Ideas podcast

Arts and Ideas podcast

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.