Study Guide

Auguries of Innocence Speaker

By William Blake

Speaker

Since there isn't any narrative thread in this poem—it being a scattershot collection of couplets—the speaker really isn't different from the actual poet. Usually, it's a bad idea to confuse a poem's speaker with the poet him- or herself. In this case, though, it's a safe bet that we're dealing with just Blake, dishing out his unfiltered opinions and insights. But… who in the wide, wide world of sports is this guy?

Blake was a high-powered, passionate, sometimes weird and irascible poet-artist… oh, and he also had mystical visions. The couplets clearly are coming from this kind of strange, amped-up mind. We get a really good sense of what his ideas are about a number of subjects—poetry, animal rights, politics, God—but we're not really put in a place where we're supposed to wonder if Blake is a reliable speaker or not. He sees himself as a prophet and a sage—and the couplets are meant to feel like they're coming from a position of spiritual authority.

These are two of the lines that best demonstrate how Blake, as the speaker, is both a prophet and a fairly quirky dude: "He who the ox to wrath has mov'd / Shall never be by woman loved" (31-32). The writer G.K. Chesterton thought these lines were ridiculous, and basically dismissed them as goofy nonsense. But they do make a kind of sense. Blake's saying not to cause problems where there shouldn't be any, or else people won't like you. Yeah, it's sort of simple, but it makes a point. At other times, we see how far-out and mystical Blake is. Without a Shmoop-style guide, any reader would probably be lost in space when confronting "Every tear from every eye / Becomes a babe in eternity" (67-68)… right?

We also know that Blake had (for his time) fairly radical politics: he was opposed to the British Empire, for one thing. At the same time, being a Christian, he was not a fan of gambling nor legalized prostitution. Yet, he was also a fairly unconventional Christian, who personally has visions of heaven—like at the end of this poem. In a way, Blake, as a speaker, is attractive because he's just so… different. He's not exactly presenting himself as an everyman—to the contrary, he seems so off-beat and strange that it's not disturbing, just engaging.

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