Introduction (E) - Language, tone and structure

Language and tone

The direct address, imperatives and exclamations make the poem sound like a biblical prophecy (see Big ideas from the Bible > Dreams, visions, prophecy). There is the sense that many identities in Introduction are heavy with symbolism. The Bard, the Soul and the Earth are universal figures, and even the dew, stars and shore seem to beg further interpretation.

The Bard gives further weight to his language by echoing Old Testament prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah in his appeal, ‘O Earth return' (see Jeremiah 22:29 and Isaiah 21:12). These prophets were appealing to the creation to resist the evils of human oppressors and to return to a right relationship with God. A similar resonance is given in Blake's use of ‘wat'ry shore', an allusion to another Old Testament work (see Job 38:11). In this book the figure of God is a mighty, external power whose testing of Job's endurance seemed tyrannical in Blake's thought.

There is a tone of weariness and despair, conveyed by ‘lapsed', ‘weeping' and ‘fallen', and the plaintive request :

‘Why wilt thou turn away?'

whose repetition rather assumes it has already been ignored. Rather than the freshness of Eden, there is diction such as ‘ancient', ‘worn' and ‘slumbrous'.

Investigating language and tone

  • Click on the above references to see how their content and tone is associated with the tone of the poem
    • What do you think Blake was trying to achieve by drawing on these allusions?

Structure and versification

The poem is divided into five-line stanzas rhyming ABAAB. The monosyllabic, long-vowelled endings to most lines create a stately, solemn tone. The stanza pattern is generally one line with three stresses, one with four, two lines with two stresses, followed by four stresses in the closing line.

The trochaic metre of the first line of the first, second and fourth stanzas enhances its dominance, compared to the flowing rhythm of the subsequent iambic lines. A change to this pattern is introduced by the closing line of stanza two. The repetition of the word ‘fallen', plus the double ‘l' in ‘fallen', followed by ‘light', together with the punctuation, make the reader linger and serves to emphasise the fallenness.

The heavy spondees of the apostrophe to Earth in the opening of stanza three increase the weightiness of the message. The repetition of the two long syllables ‘O earth' followed by the closing long syllable in ‘return' means that we have five long stressed syllables here. This slows down the line and reinforces the impression of lament. The brevity of the next trochaic lines increases the pace and sense of urgency at the oncoming morning.

Investigating structure and versification

  • Compare the structure and versification of this poem with the structure and versification of  Introduction at the start of the Songs of Innocence
    • Make notes on how / whether each succeeds in reflecting the mood and content of the poems.
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