Infant Sorrow

Infant Sorrow


  • “Infant Sorrow” is a poem by William Blake that presents birth from the perspective of a newborn, symbolising the painful transition from a state of innocence to a world of experience.
  • The poem expresses the struggles of an infant against restriction and confinement, reflecting the theme of rebellion against society’s norms.


  • The Infant: The infant in the poem symbolises the human soul entering the world of physicality and experience. Through the voice of the infant, Blake criticises the industrial society’s constraints imposed on humanity.
  • Swaddling Bands: These represent the limitations and restrictions that society imposes right from birth, reflecting the themes of oppression and confinement.


  • Conflict and Rebellion: The infant’s struggle against the confines of the swaddling bands, and its associated cries and sobs, express the human spirit’s inherent resistance to societal constraints.
  • Loss of Innocence: The harsh transition from the secure womb to the outside world reflects the loss of innocence and the initiation into the world of experience.


  • Visual Imagery: “My mother groaned, my father wept./ Into the dangerous world I leapt” portrays vivid images of the pain associated with childbirth, the infant’s leap into the ‘dangerous world’ suggesting an immediate introduction to suffering and hardship.
  • Metaphorical Imagery: The overall metaphorical image of a child’s birth is striking. It’s a powerful symbol reflecting the birth of consciousness or self-awareness in what Blake considers a broken society.

Rhyme and Meter

  • The AABB structure in “Infant Sorrow” brings continuity and familiarity in an otherwise disruptive scenario.
  • The meter is irregular, perhaps reflecting the chaotic nature of entering a world with stringent societal frameworks.


  • ‘Sulk upon my mother’s breast’: This implies the infant’s early resistance and rebellion against comfort and nurture, suggesting the idea of inherent defiance in human nature against imposed restriction.
  • ‘A boundless world’: This phrase is paradoxical, as the bound and confined infant perceives the world as boundless, a reflection of the limitless potential of the human spirit viewed through the confines of social norms.


  • The poem “Infant Sorrow” provides insight into Blake’s critique on societal norms, especially those imposed right from birth.
  • This piece, part of the ‘Songs of Experience’ in Blake’s larger collection, offers a darker perspective compared to the ‘Songs of Innocence’, reflecting the author’s vision of a society that curbs the inherent freedom and potential of the human spirit.

In revising “Infant Sorrow”, it is helpful to consider how it contrasts with its corresponding piece from the ‘Songs of Innocence’, “Infant Joy”. The presentation of both poems can initiate a thoughtful discussion on the nuances of Blake’s portrayal of innocence versus experience, and it’s the societal implications.