Holy Thursday (Songs of Experience)

Holy Thursday (Songs of Experience)


  • “Holy Thursday (Songs of Experience)” is a crucial poem in William Blake’s anthology, contrasting its counterpart in “Songs of Innocence”.
  • It criticises societal false piety and the corruption of religious establishments, particularly focusing on the exploitation of children.


  • “Grey-headed beadles” represent oppressive religious authorities, enforcing discipline and order.
  • “Babes reduced to misery” symbolise the innocence exploited by society.
  • The procession to St Paul’s can symbolise false and performative charity, bringing attention to poverty and exploitation without making meaningful changes.


  • Child Exploitation: By explaining the harsh realities of charity children’s lives, Blake opposes the romanticisation of noble charity seen in the society.
  • Religious Hypocrisy: The ceremony discussed in this poem symbolises the Church’s hollow religious practices that mask the harsh reality of child exploitation.
  • Societal Oppression: The regimental order of the children’s procession represents the oppressive norms of society, particularly towards the vulnerable.


  • Visual Imagery: The vast procession of children, their emblem of woe, and the church drawn crimson over with a dome all provide visually powerful imagery.
  • Auditory Imagery: The ‘hum of multitudes’ conveys an oppressive silence despite the large crowd, further establishing the regimented atmosphere.


  • The children being described as flowers serves both as a visual metaphor for the vast procession, and commentary on children being prematurely plucked from ordinary lives.

Rhyme and Meter

  • The poem utilises an AABB rhyme scheme, maintaining an orderly structure that mirrors the strict regimentation of the children.
  • Each stanza uses a mixture of iambic and trochaic tetrameter, creating a rhythmic procession-like pace.


  • An essential part of the poem’s context lies in the author’s critique of the existing societal norms. Blake was known for his opposition to the institution of Church, which held an enormously powerful position in society.
  • “Holy Thursday (Songs of Experience)” starkly contrasts its counterpart in “Songs of Innocence”, advocating for the oppressed and criticising hypocrisy rather than celebrating charity.

The aforementioned points are designed to facilitate a well-rounded and critical understanding of “Holy Thursday (Songs of Experience)” in the Blake anthology.