The Blossom - Imagery, symbolism and themes

Imagery and symbolism

Blake was writing for a public that, for the most part, was Christian and shared Blake's familiarity with the traditional Christian images and associations. He was aware, too, that his readers would know the tales and folklore that often resulted in a combination of Christianity and folklore in literature and art. Here, he employs two images, one of which shows this combination

Sparrow – in literature, the sparrow is usually associated with carefree joie de vivre. In the Bible, Jesus famously described how not even the insignificant death of a sparrow went unnoticed by God (Matthew 10:29).

Robin Redbreast, photo by Keven Law, available through Creative CommonsRobin – in literature and folklore, the robin is usually associated with friendliness. In earlier examples, the robin is known by his full name, robin redbreast, and he is associated with compassion. According to a traditional tale, he tried to remove a thorn from the crown of thorns on Jesus' head while he was on the cross. A drop of blood fell from the thorn onto his breast. The colour remains on his breast for ever as a sign of his compassion.

Happy blossom – The picture is of something delicate, vibrant yet frail. Blossom is associated with the greater light - and light-heartedness - of spring. Blake suggests that the tenderness and fragility of the blossom provides solace for two very different human aspects of human experience.

Bosom – The breast and chest area is commonly associated with solace, nurture and security. Gathering to one's bosom suggests the maternal instinct. ‘Near my Bosom' is also a way of saying ‘close to my heart'.

Investigating imagery and symbolism

  • What ideas and feelings do you associate with the image of the sparrow and the robin?
    • In what ways do your ideas link with their portrayal here?
  • Compare this poem with any other Blake poem which uses flower imagery
    • In what ways are they similar?
    • In what ways are they different?


The nature of innocence

The poem suggests that innocence exists in a world that includes reasons for sobbing and for compassion of which it is quite ignorant. The fragility of the blossom represents the fragility of innocence when it is also ignorant.

Sexual awakening

This theme is developed in the companion poem from the Songs of Experience, The Sick Rose. Where the (possible) awakening here is innocent, in that poem it is potentially destructive.

Investigating themes

  • What new dimension or aspect of innocence is suggested by this poem?
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