Introduction (I) - Synopsis and commentary

Synopsis of Introduction (I)

Introduction (I)

The narrator is a piper who is happily piping when he sees a child on a cloud. The child tells him to pipe a song about a lamb. He does so and the child weeps on hearing it. He then asks the piper to sing. He sings the same song and the child cries with joy when he hears it. The child then tells the narrator to write a book and disappears. The piper takes a reed to make a pen. With it he writes happy songs for children to bring them joy.

This poem sets the tone for the entire sequence. It establishes the poet as a visionary who is divinely inspired. It also establishes the voice of the poems as being that of a child and/or accessible to children.

Introduction also reflects the process of poetic composition. It moves from free music, allied with divine inspiration, to songs with words, which are then written down with a pen for others to read in a book. What was formless has become an artistic creation.


Introduction introduces the Songs of Innocence within the context of the pastoral poem. This style of writing evokes an ideal, idyllic world of innocence and simplicity, a Golden Age before the Fall of humankind. The genre recognises, however, that such a state does not exist unalloyed in the present world. See Aspects of literature > Recognising poetic form > Pastoral poetry in brief.

Innocence here is presented as a state of happiness and obedience. The piper is happy to do whatever he is told. He has no fear or suspicion regarding the voice he hears and no reluctance to do its bidding. He acts as one child responding to another.

Investigating expectations

  • Make a list of adjectives to describe the kind of poems you expect to find after reading Introduction (I)
  • Keep a note of these expectations
    • As you work through the poems, see how your expectations are met or challenged.
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