William Blake is one of the most significant writers of the Romantic Literature. He was prominent as the author of influential and thought-provoking texts. Moreover, in his masterpieces, Blake combined precisely chosen words with the images, thus developing a visual poetry in an entirely new way. A poem "On Another's Sorrow" is included into "The Songs of Innocence" - a collection of visual poems which was firstly printed in 1789. The following poem is the transition from the state of disbelief in God and His power into the acceptance of the Creator’s might. The explicit usage of the rhetorical questions and exclamations emphasizes the despair and the doubts which the narrator had at the beginning. Their complete disappearance at the end signifies final acceptance of the God’s might.
Structurally, the poem consists of 9 stanzas rhyming in AABB scheme. The name of a narrator is not mentioned as the poem is composed in the first person singular. This type of narration creates the atmosphere of author's ideas present in the text. It also establishes an intimate connection between the writer and the reader.
There are no interior or exterior descriptions; however, the poem is full of rhetorical questions. The interrogations create the effect of author's inquisitiveness and willingness to strike the existing system. They also emphasize the emotive content of the poem. In addition, the questions not merely provoke the reader for the contemplations, but also contribute to setting an idea itself. "Can I see another's woe / And not be in sorrow too?" (1, 2) - a woe in this line is a symbol of bitter trial and, grief which might be difficult to overcome. Moreover, the words in the following lines prove the idea of sufferings: “grief” (3), “falling tear” (5), “a child weeping” (7, 8) and “an infant groaning” (10) are the symbols of all the misfortunes which the human race has to cope with. The narrator in these sentences sympathizes; he poses the questions in order to share human sufferings. Two exclamatory sentences in the end of the third stanza after the lines “Can a mother sit and hear / An infant groan, an infant fear?” (9, 10) accentuate the narrator’s feelings.
The fourth stanza introduces the God. In contrast to the narrator who fights against the injustice and human pain, “He” only observes the Earth without making any attempts to change the world order (13). Unlike humans who suffer, the God “smiles” (13). The narrator blames Him for unwillingness to root out all pains, thus making the people’s lives happier. On the other hand, the God is not indifferent: he teaches to be compassionate by “Pouring pity in their breasts” (18). It is worth mentioning, that while in the fourth stanza the narrator’s attitude towards the Creator is critical and hostile, the tension gradually weakens. For instance, in the sixth strophe, the God shows deep compassion by “Weeping tear on infant’s tear” (20). These two tears are the symbols of a complete unity which has been restored between the God and His wards. This alliance also signifies the beginning of the last part of the poem. Starting from the seventh and up to the ninth strophes, the tightness is reducing, and the narrator changes his point of view: he accepts the God as well as his presence in all earthy creatures. Despite the sufferings, the Creator fills our hearts with joy and delight. He is able to interfere in the world’s development. The God is the constituent part of the pettiest things as well as the component of the most divine and perfect objects. He is the Master of our existence, and it is His wish which trials we have to carry out. In the seventh stanza, the God is not smiling any more, “He doth feel the sorrow too” (25). The narrator states that the Maker, in fact, shares all the misfortunes; He is in every sigh and every tear. While sending the trial, He is totally assured in our capacity to face it: “Till our grief is fled and gone / He doth sit by us and moan” (35, 36). The structure of the last three stanzas differs from the previous part of the poem as well. There are no rhetorical questions and exclamation sentences as well as no first person narration. The narrator’s emotions and discontents give way to the God’s power.
The poem “On Another’s Sorrow” aims at depicting the compassion for the human’s sorrows and pains. Despite the doubts, the narrator admits the existence of God and assures a reader of it as well.
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