Spring - Imagery, symbolism and themes

Imagery and symbolism

Spring echoes a number of Blake's other poems, from both collections of Songs. By reflecting poems of darker content, Blake reminds his readers that the innocence conveyed here is not the whole picture.

Cock - In folklore, the cockerel is associated with sexuality, but there is a further significance according to Christian tradition. It is regarded as a herald of the resurrection from the dead and so associated with new life. The cock therefore enhances the evocation of new life and fertility but also hints at the reality of dying which is also a part of the process of spring and of resurrection. The children and the cockerel are linked here, so that it acquires these associations, too.

Lamb – Blake uses this as a natural image of gentleness and vulnerability. His readers would also automatically associate it with Jesus, who is referred to as the Lamb of God in John 1:29. According to the New Testament, Jesus takes away the [3sins of the world and is identified as a sacrificial lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), as well as being likened to a lamb in 1 Peter 1:19. In this context, he is vulnerable but also a sacrificial figure and victim of violence.

Children - The image of the child is primarily one of innocence and gentleness. In the context of spring, Blake points to the potential of the child as a sexual but innocent being, because children are not self-conscious or aware of shame. Children are vulnerable, like lambs. However, since the child will grow to eat lambs, we are reminded that the relationship which is now mutual will not remain so. A child can grow to be devourer of lamb as well as friend.

Investigating imagery and symbolism

  • Review all the other Songs and find the following allusions:
    • Playing a wind instrument
    • Day and night
    • Little girl
    • Merry voices
    • Infant noises
    • Licking a white neck
    • Little lambs
  • What does the context of each of these references bring to your reading of Spring?
  • Look at the image of the lamb in Spring and compare it with its representation in The Lamb
    • What similarities or differences do you find?


The nature of innocence

Spring primarily conveys the beauty of unselfconscious innocence which includes shame-free sexuality and a capacity for unexploitative relationships. It also deals with the other dimension of this theme, the limitations of innocence allied to ignorance.

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