“Infant Sorrow” is obviously the counterpart to “Infant Joy”. Here Blake faces the fact that childbirth is a rather gruesome process, not only to the parents, but to the child themselves. Like in “Infant Joy”, the baby is the speaker and to him Blake pays most attention, dealing with the parents’ experience in the first line “My mother groaned, my father wept”. The child enters the dangerous world, crying loudly “like a fiend hid in a cloud”, bringing to the readers’ minds the image of the angelic child in “Introduction” to Songs of Innocence and making us question whether he was really an angel. The child immediately starts fighting, struggling in their father’s hands and striving against their swaddling bands (it was a custom back then to wrap children like tiny mummies, something you can see in some portraits of baby Jesus by old masters. People believed that children’s bones were too soft and they had to be kept in this protective cocoon.) Finally they stop struggling and decide to “sulk upon my mother’s breast”, and if you’ve ever seen an infant’s face, you recognize that look.
“A Poison Tree” is a chilling poem about the devastating results of bottling one’s rage. The speaker was once angry with his friend, said out loud whatever was bothering him and that was the end. But when he became angry with his enemy, he didn’t say it, but cherished and watered the seed until it grew into a tree. It finally produces a beautiful apple, the enemy sees it and steals it at night. In the morning the speaker notices with satisfaction the dead body of his enemy beneath the tree. The poem poses an interesting dilemma, because of course it was wrong of the speaker to nurse his grievances and let them grow, but it was also wrong of the other person to steal and it could seem like he got what he deserved.
With “To Tirzah” we are entering the complicated world of Blake’s private mythology. Tirzah is the name of the northern capital of Israel, and for Blake it was the symbol of the limited view of the world provided by our body and senses. In contrast to Jerusalem, Tirzah was the home of the “ten lost tribes”, and thus for Blake the symbol of losing one’s spiritual self. Tirzah was also the name of one of five sisters who successfully appealed to Moses to be made their father’s heirs, because they had no brothers, so some critics interpret it as the symbol of being too preoccupied with material things. Tirzah is like the mother of the physical part of his being, which Blake disavows, repeating twice the paraphrased line from the Gospel (used by Jesus addressing his mother) “what have I do with thee?” I must admit I don’t quite get the second stanza about the sexes dying, but then rising “to work & weep”. The overall thrust of the poem is the attack against Tirzah, the maker of the speaker’s physical body, which he perceives as imprisonment. Some critics argue that because Blake was rather sex-positive, this poem should be read ironically, as a satire against Puritan attitudes, so the speaker should not be by any means conflated with Blake. The second stanza is full of forging metaphors, maybe echoing the theme from “The Tyger“. Blake compares the human dress to forged iron and the human form to a fiery forge. We live in a brutal word, Blake seems to say, but isn’t this brutality also creative, even if in a scary way?
And finally “A Divine Image”, which is another answer to “The Divine Image“. It appears only in one existing copy of Songs of Experience, because Blake probably though “The Human Abstract” was a better choice. While “The Divine Image was all about how Mercy and Pity have human faces, this poem lists all the vices which have human faces, too.