Featured Poem ‘Piping down the valleys wild’ by William Blake

William Blake’s complementary collections of poems Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience are brilliantly ambiguous. This introduction is on the face of it a celebration of innocence and of the need to capture it in art. Yet the moment at which the piper sits down to write his song in a book the child angel disappears and the clear water is ‘stain’d’. In other words the poem, the song, the work of art, is incapable of communicating innocence as such, but it is all we have. Is this a song of innocence or of experience?


Introduction to Songs of Innocence


   Piping down the valleys wild,

     Piping songs of pleasant glee,

   On a cloud I saw a child,

     And he laughing said to me:


   “Pipe a song about a Lamb!”

     So I piped with merry cheer.

   “Piper, pipe that song again;”

     So I piped: he wept to hear.


   “Drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe;

     Sing thy songs of happy cheer!”

   So I sang the same again,

     While he wept with joy to hear.


   “Piper, sit thee down and write

     In a book, that all may read.”

   So he vanish’d from my sight;

     And I pluck’d a hollow reed,


   And I made a rural pen,

     And I stain’d the water clear,

   And I wrote my happy songs

     Every child may joy to hear.

Posted by Chris Routledge

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