The Unspoken Voice in William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience
William J. Martin

Critics of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience not surprisingly have focused their attention on the galaxy of characters whose voices are heard throughout Blake’s poems. These are the voices of London’s disenfranchised—the men, women and children who thronged London’s streets and whose piteous cries became the object of Blake’s concern. However, in addition to these spoken voices there runs throughout Songs an undercurrent of silent voices—voices that can be inferred, or as Blake would say, imagined—which speaks no less directly to the reader but which sustains Blake’s depiction of the frightful living conditions he witnessed daily in late eighteenth century London. By giving voice to these unspoken, silent voices that haunt the margins of his poems, and complementing them with the voices of his other characters, Blake hoped to create a more sympathetic and humane vision of life by showing his fellow citizens how they might transcend many of the evils that plagued their daily existence.

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