By William Blake
(1757-1827) Blake was born in London on November 28th, 1757, and died in 1827. He was an English poet, painter, and engraver. His poetry was not widely known during his lifetime, but today he is considered as one of the most influential poets and artists of the Romantic Age. When he was 10 years old, he had a vision of a tree filled with angels. He claims to vision celestial spirits in a natural world, and therefore includes the personification of nature in his poems to express his point. Blake wrote "Mad Song" when he was only 14 years old. It is titled "Mad Song" because the speaker is trying to portray the madness of poetic inspiration.
"And the rustling birds of dawn/ The earth do scorn."
In the first stanza, he states the earth's scorn to the rustling of the birds of dawn which parallels the scorn that Blake himself felt towards the people who mocked inspiration and labeled him as a madman. According to Elizabethan playwrights, a mad character is one who has a disordered mind that imagines superhuman achievements and success.
"My notes are driven: / They strike the ear of night, / Make weep the eyes of day"
(Second Stanza) This creates a deformed tone and portrays the speaker as a nonconformist. Literally, it suggests that the speaker is a ghost that has a distaste for light (daytime) and prefers the darkness (night). Figuratively, the day and light is a new found experience, which is sorrow in the speaker's point of view (weep). Similarly, the speaker goes to the darkness for refuge, but he feels imprisoned in the darkness with nothing but the ear to use as a sense. The main idea of these lines is that he feels inexperienced, and he is limited in boundaries.
"Like a fiend in a cloud, / With howling woe."
(Third/Last Stanza) The fiend may represent an energetic spirit enclosed in a cloud: the speaker. This cloud symbolizes the limitations of reason: critical people. The speaker may be stuck in an inexperienced and tedious state. Just like death frees the soul from its body, the night may free the fiend from his cloud.
"I turn my back to the east, / From whence comforts have increas'd"
The speaker remains faithful by turning his back to the east, the light of day. He turns to a different light which is painful rather than comforting. In turning back to the east, the speaker symbolically destroys the world of reason, also the world of the critic who describes him as a madman. Then, he seeks refuge in the tempestuous, nightly world of energy.
Blake feels like he is in a concrete society where he does not belong and cannot create refuge to escape to. It is ironic because he wrote the poem as a child, and the main idea of the poem is that he is not experienced enough to contribute to a world of energy and is contributing to a realistic world instead. The theme that is being communicated is in order for an inexperienced person to contribute to a world of energy and seek refuge from a concrete world, he must use his imagination and follow his inspiration.
"Mad Song" by William Blake, read by The Wordman