Both Infant Sorrow and Plain Sense of things are fascinating poems. William Blake’s infant sorrow is about a child who has been born in a world that is dangerous.On the other hand, Wallace Stevens’ Plain sense of things is a poem that explores a particular dualism that he observes in creativity by looking at the conflict between the lack of thereof and creativity. Both poets use poetic devices to show the meaning of the poems.This paper aims to critically compare the two poems, not just by their meanings but what they mean in terms of the themes, words on the pages, line breaks, the analytic shape and the tone that is used in the poems.
Much of the poem Plain sense of things is meant to probe the thoughts of the reader through the use of mysterious ideas. The beginning stanza of the poem has a rhythm that is balanced. The first line of the poem has five unstressed and five stressed syllables. The first line, which is ‘After the leaves have fallen, we return’ (Stevens 1), draws the attention of the reader, as the word ‘after’ creates the emphasis given to the line. It shows the reader the events that transpired before the return. The reader can envision the absence of the leaves in their mind. Through the use of leaves, the poet begins his work with the image of nature, which is an image of life.
Just like in Plain sense of things, William Blake uses imagery in Infant Sorrow to enlighten the meaning of the poem. The title of the poem automatically gives the poem a theme of sorrow. Throughout the poem, the poet focuses on negative emotions which are meant to show the darkest sides of being born to this world. In the second line of the poem to the third, Blake writes in a manner that helps the reader to see the changes that occur when the baby comes to the world. ‘Into the dangerous world, I leaped: Helpless, naked, piping loud’ (Blake 2,3). The second line shows that the world is not such a good place to come to. The use of the adjective ‘helpless,’ is an indication that the baby is scared since it is not protected in its mother’s womb anymore. The third line of the poem shows how the baby enters the world with energy and with a negative perception of the world. This can be compared to the first line in the plain sense of things, where the falling of the leaves maybe a representation of winter or autumn, which might be a symbol of death or dormancy.
The second line of Wallace Stevens’ poem is the line that is used as the title of the poem. The line ‘To a plain sense of things’ (Stevens 2)carries the definition that things are clear and simple as well. The emphasis put on the words ‘a plain sense of things,’ make the reader slow down and focus on the issue at hand. At this point, the reader can rest before they are introduced to the most complicated ideas that are about to be unveiled.
In Infant Sorrow, the point makes emphasis on sounds to give meaning to the poem. Through the first line, ‘My mother groaned! My father wept’ (Blake 1)the reader can understand and visualize the sounds that were made by the parents of the child when the child was born. The sounds represent sadness, which is contrary to the joy that is felt when a baby is born. Also, in the lines, the point uses repetition to show the agonies that the parents experience to bring forth a child. It is possible that the mother groans because of the pain of the childbirth, but it might also symbolize that she pities her child who has entered the cruel world. The weeping of the father might even be as a result of the same reasons that the mother has the cruelty of the world. Also, the crying of both the mother and the father shows the fear that both the parents have concerning the challenges that they are about to face in raising their child.
In the third line of Plain sense of things, ‘we had come to the end of the imagination’ (Stevens 3), the poet slows down to regain the attention of the reader. The third line is meant to show the awakening that followed the imagination. The way that Stevens describes his feelings can be compared to the way Blake describes the feelings in his poem. By using the words we in his poem, Stevens invites the readers to share in his experience. From the second line in the second stanza, ‘for this blank cold, this sadness without cause’ (Stevens 2.2) it is clear on the cold sadness that has engulfed the poet, and how helpless he must feel at the moment. In the Infant Sorrow, the infant is the only angry speaker in the poem.
The poem Infant sorrow is written in the first person. The poem incorporates an internal rhyming scheme that of couplets. Stevens writes his poem without rhyme even though the lines seem to pull themselves together.The Infant Sorrow has rhythmical patterns which are both trochaic and iambic.However, iambic rhythmical patterns are the most dominant in the poem. The mixture of the trochaic and iambic verses in the poem shows the struggles that the babyfaces as it tries to break free. Transitional words like ‘striving’ and ‘leapt’ that are used in some lines in the poem show the attempt of the baby to transform and free itself from the situation that is very uncomfortable.
The tone that is usedthe plain sense of things is precise, neat and fresh. Stevens uses the term adjective rather than using words like ‘it is hard to describe.’The speaker struggles to find the adjective that describes the sadness that fills the entire poem. The tone used on the Infants sorrowis enhanced by the emphatic alliterations of striving and struggling. The language that is used in the entire stanza of the poem shows the baby’s desire to fight constraint and to be free. It is surprising howthe baby responds to its situation forceful on the contrary to the way that it should be; submissive.
In the poem plain sense of things,the rhythm that is applied is interesting. The rhythm in the first stanza is regular and calm, with four stresses in each line. In the second stanza, the frequency of the syllables that are usedfrom the first line increases to the fifth line. The pattern of the rhythm is the poem highlights the momentum of the poem. The entire poem is awayfrom the speaker to reflect on the events of the past, that have contributed to the present circumstances. The poem tries to keep a balance between reality and imagination throughout the entire poem.
InfantSorrow is a brief poem where Blake reveals his inner thoughts regarding life and creation. The poem that is of short two stanzas, unlike the plain sense of things which has five stanzas, follows the rhyme scheme AABB. Blake’s poem is dominant in the manner in which it outlines the sorrowful and desperate situations that face children when they are born.
Blake, W. (1893). The Poems of William Blake (Vol. 1). Lawrence & Bullen.
Stevens, Wallace. The collected poems of Wallace Stevens. Vintage, 2011.
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