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He who respects the Infant's faith
Triumphs over Hell & Death.
The Child's Toys & the Old Man's Reasons
Are the Fruits of the Two Seasons.

Blake, Auguries of Innocence (c. 1803)

The cycle of poems, called the Songs of Innocence is the most famous early example of Blake's poetry printed in relief from etched copper plates and coloured by hand. The poems were first published in 1789 and, by 1794, Blake began binding them with the Songs of Experience in order to show "the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul". At this stage he began to shift certain poems from Innocence into the later cycle. Our copy of the Songs of Innocence, with its fourteen plates, is one of the smallest collations of these poems; it is also one of only ten known copies printed before the addition of Songs of Experience.

The subdued, pastel hand-colouring (by Blake or his wife Catherine) is characteristic of the monochromatic palette employed by Blake in the late 1780s and 90s. It serves to create a sober mood that parallels the radical simplicity of the poems and draws out their serious aspect. Later printings became increasingly strong and bright in colour, creating an effect similar to a medieval illuminated manuscript (like the plate from Jerusalem included later in this exhibition). From 1796 Blake printed the poems on one side of the sheet only, a practice which emphasizes the pictorial nature of the texts. A more detailed account of the method of printing of Blake's illuminated texts appears later in this exhibition.


open book


The Little Girl Lost (second plate) and The Little Girl Found (first plate)

The Little Girl Found

The Divine Image

Infant Joy

A Cradle Song

A Cradle Song

The Little Boy Lost

The Little Boy Found

Nurse's Song

On Another's Sorrow

Holy Thursday

The Voice of the Ancient Bard


The School-Boy


(c)1999 National Gallery of Victoria