Holy Thursday (Songs of Innocence)

Holy Thursday (Songs of Innocence)


  • “Holy Thursday” from Songs of Innocence is a poem by William Blake that conveys a scenic snapshot of children heading from their charitable schools to attend a special service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
  • The poem superficially espouses an uplifting tone related to the charitable festivities, but underlying sentiments of injustice and exploitation can be discerned.


  • The children symbolise the suppressed, innocent voice of society, highlighting Blake’s potent concern for disadvantaged children in his time.
  • The church service represents a façade of virtue, hinting at societal hypocrisy and the church’s role in maintaining social inequalities.
  • Holy Thursday, a Christian observance that typically celebrates Christ’s last supper, is symbolic of charity and benevolence - employed here with a sense of irony.


  • Innocence and Corruption: The innocent children are presented in contrast to the hypocritical society exploiting them, revealing the gap between appearance and reality.
  • Social and Economic Inequality: The festivity and charity for these poor children highlight the economic disparity of Blake’s society.
  • Critique of Organised Religion: Blake critiques the Church for celebrating charity as a virtue while allowing the conditions necessitating it to persist.


  • Visual imagery: “Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door” creates an image of mercy personified, driving the theme of charity.
  • Colour imagery: “Beneath them sit the aged men, white as snow” uses contrasting colours to depict the scene effectively and to highlight social disparity.

Rhyme and Meter

  • The poem uses an AABB rhyme scheme which adds to the cheerful, innocent tone superficially portrayed.
  • The rhythm gives the impression of a hymn or a children’s song, perhaps to satirise the church service.


  • The ‘beadles’ that walk before the children represent the oppressive authority figures in society.
  • Blake frames the children as ‘flowers of London town’, symbolising their innocence and beauty amidst the morally polluted society.


  • “Holy Thursday (Songs of Innocence)” paints a picture of children living in poverty during Blake’s time. Charity schools, part of the British system, schooled such children.
  • Blake’s criticism of the Church and affluent citizens becomes evident as he subtly questions the festival of charity while the root cause - social inequality - remains unaddressed.
  • Understanding Blake’s contentious relationship with institutions of power, particularly the Church, is crucial for a deeper analysis of “Holy Thursday (Songs of Innocence)”.

These points provide a comprehensive breakdown of “Holy Thursday (Songs of Innocence)” by William Blake, facilitating a more profound appreciation of Blake’s critique of societal hypocrisy and inequality. To gain more insights, this poem can be compared with its counterpart in “Songs of Experience”.