A poem is an art of expressing feelings and opinions through language and rhythm. The strong and emotional poem “The Clod and the Pebble “by William Blake expresses two contrasting views of love by comparing them to a pebble and a clod through parallel structure, effective diction, and metaphor. Love can be good or bad, ugly or beautiful. True love prevails all, but the truth is, we all become selfish at some time in life.
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The poem expresses thoughts towards innocence and experience using light and dark images. It is easy to understand the meaning of the poem and the message the poet is trying to convey because of how it had been constructed. The poem consists of three quatrains, where the top half is given to the clod and the bottom half to the pebble. The first and last stanzas both have an ABAB rhyme scheme which emphasizes the parallel structure when writing the stanzas side-by-side and you can easily compare the differences. The parallel structure sets up a clear contrast between both ideas. Blake uses a clod of clay to symbolize love as pure and divine, it is young and acquiescent. It marks how passionate love can become in a very unrealistic and humane viewpoint. The clod of clay symbolizes the softness and tender of nature as it changes shape. The Clod is always suffering, as it is “trodden” with cattle’s feet, but it is aware of its place in the world, accepts fate and helps others by “changing” shape according to each situation. It is innocent and cannot think of anything worse and so it is always positive. The clod represents how flexible a relationship must be to last. Where there is “Hell” because of sufferings, true love can build a “Heaven.” This reveals an image where the passion of love cleans the soul of all evil and purifies the bad. The second stanza is the narrator’s voice and changes from the Clod that “sings,” to the “Pebble of the brook” which “warbles” its story. The imagery in the 3rd stanza is darker. By using repetition “Love seeketh…please” and “not itself,” “only self” between the first and third stanza, the contrast and comparison between the Clod and the Pebble, is stronger. The pebble is representing the hard and cruel nature of love. The Pebble lives in fresh water. It is hard, aged and has been caressed by smooth flowing water throughout time. It has gained experience because it is aware of the “outside” world and has been here for a long time, therefore, renders almost indifferent to love and feelings. The Pebble’s love is taking others self-pleasure where as the Clod’s love is giving. A pebble represents the unstable relationship of love. It highlights all the negative experiences and will never last. Love in the Clod’s eyes seeks to please others and not “itself”. The Pebble views love as pleasure only to itself. Love is also characterized as having “joys in another’s loss of ease” referring to how thoughtless and shameless love is in the pebble’s eyes. The Pebble ends the poem by counteracting the Clod by expressing that love “builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite”. The pebble believes that love interferes with purity, and true emotion.
It is crucial to understand that the clod represents innocence and the pebble symbolizes experience. In this poem the Clod of Clay is being compared to a child. When a child is born, it does not know what to do until it is taught. It can change sides easily as it “moulds” to try and find its definite place in the world. Children are taught to be nice and therefore, follow all orders and try to be a good kid to their parents. Also, a child learns from the elders, which is why they say that the first child and/or last child or the only child in the family is usually the most selfish because they are cared for the most and are always watching their parents. The middle child is usually left out and learns by itself trying to do the right thing. A Pebble is the elder because it knows that caring too much for others will lead to problems for you. If you give money to many people you will end up poor. If you care too much for someone they become spoiled.
Blake’s choices of words are very strong. Love limits a person’s ability to be free and the pebble uses “bind” in line 10 to express that and the Clod expresses the nature of love that is thrilling and pleasing. Also, paradox is used in the last line in the first and last quatrain “And builds Heaven in Hell’s despair” and “Builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.” This is one of the key points because it is demonstrating how true love can make even the worse circumstances worse or better. Blake also uses alliteration in line one of the second stanza “clod of clay” to emphasize its worthlessness. It creates an impression that the clay is unformed, spineless, and innocent. It also gives us a vibe which has a vital outcome on the range of meanings presented. It is easier to get addicted rather than making him/her quit.
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Everyone knows that true love is beautiful and selfless, but the truth is, we will become selfish. This poem is very well written and Blake uses parallel structure, metaphor and effective diction to send the readers his message. Knowledge comes from experience and with little knowledge, innocence is not developed enough to experience pain and therefore loves everyone. With Experience death is introduced and you are aware of what truly happens.
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