William Blake’s poem “Auguries of Innocence,” starting with the words “To see a World in a Grain of Sand,” is full of allegorical meaning. This meaning permits the author to mobilize a deeper level of significance, bringing to the light the issue of the interconnectedness of everything on this earth. This thesis is exemplified in a series of symbolic pictures that vividly illustrate the author’s points.
In the first part of the poem, the poet uses a variety of animal images to convey the meanings that related to both the human and the animal world. To underscore that pain inflicted on a living being is equally important, be it inflicted on a person or a beast, Blake introduces a variety of images that honestly reminds one of the endless abuses that animals suffer at the hands of the man. He talks about “a dog starv’d at his master’s gate,” “a horse misused upon the road,” and “outcry of the hunted hare.” These abuses, in Blake’s mind, have an inevitable effect on the fate of the person, leading him or her to experience same pain:
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
The resemblance of suffering and later appeal to God in people and animals lays the foundation for Blake’s allegory.
It is not just pain and suffering that Blake addresses in his poem. His allegory goes beyond pain; instead, he claims that all processes, be it happiness or misery are interconnected. Thus, he insists that humans are born for a combination of joy and sorrow that are firmly related to our lives:
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
Blake sees this interconnection in everything; from here stems his allegorical use of animals to indicate human emotions and feelings. To make his allegory understandable to his readers, the poet aligns animals and plants with passions that are conventionally associated with them. Thus, the newt symbolizes venom, the owl is an expression of the “unbeliever’s fright,” and the bee is the manifestation of “the artist’s jealousy.” Giving the animals these traditional associations, Blake draws a convincing parallel between the animal and the human world, leaving the reader with a compelling realization of the truth of his allegory.
After citing connections with the animal world, the author proceeds to the human society, also pointing to the instances that demonstrate his point. Thus, talking about a ‘poor man’ whose ‘farthing is worth more than all the gold on Afric’s shore,’ Blake evokes the image of the whole group, the poor, thus making a case against contempt and neglect of this category by the rich. In doing so, he evokes a different, second meaning as is the case in allegory. Once again, talking about “one mite wrung from the lab’rer’s hands” that will “buy and sell the miser’s lands,” he speaks about broader social processes, negating the abuse of the poor people by their wealthy neighbors.
Thus, William Blake in his “Auguries of Innocence” depicts a picture of the human society, using images from the animal world and supporting his claims with specific instances from the human life. Arguing for the interconnection of all beings alive on earth, he stresses the importance of seeing broader things in these particular examples. In this way, he achieves the appearance of a second meaning typical of allegory.
Blake. William. Auguries of Innocence. 3 April 2006 <http://www.artofeurope.com/blake/bla3.htm>.
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