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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

THE HUMAN ABSTRACT, FR. SONGS OF EXPERIENCE, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"The Human Abstract" is a poem from William Blake's "Songs of Experience," a collection of poems that explore the darker aspects of the human experience. The poem reflects on the nature of human desires and the ways in which they can lead to corruption and cruelty. It also explores the tension between reason and emotion, and the role of social institutions in shaping human behavior.


"The Human Abstract" describes two abstract concepts - "Pity" and "Mercy" - and how they are related to human behavior. The poem argues that pity and mercy, which are often thought of as positive human traits, are actually harmful when they are not accompanied by reason and understanding. The poem suggests that without these qualities, pity and mercy can lead to cruelty and selfishness. The poem goes on to criticize social institutions, such as religion and government, for promoting these negative qualities and perpetuating a system of oppression.

Form and Style:

The poem is written in four stanzas, each with a consistent rhyme scheme (ABCC). It has a critical and contemplative tone, with language that conveys the depth of Blake's concerns and criticisms. The poem is notable for its use of metaphor and symbolism, which emphasize the abstract nature of the concepts being explored.

Poetic Elements:

Metaphor: The poem uses the metaphor of a "tree" to symbolize the interconnectedness of human desires and behaviors. The tree represents the roots of human behavior, which are often hidden and difficult to understand.

Symbolism: The poem uses symbolic language to represent the abstract concepts of "Pity" and "Mercy," emphasizing the ways in which they are misunderstood and misused.

Irony: The poem uses irony to highlight the ways in which social institutions, such as religion and government, promote negative qualities and behaviors while claiming to be promoting positive ones.


"The Human Abstract" is a powerful commentary on the nature of human desires and the ways in which they can lead to corruption and cruelty. Its use of metaphor, symbolism, and irony, combined with a critical and contemplative tone, make it a powerful critique of social institutions and the systems of oppression they perpetuate. The poem's message of the importance of reason and understanding in shaping human behavior has resonated with readers for centuries, making it a lasting testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the human experience.

Overall, "The Human Abstract" is an excellent example of William Blake's ability to use poetry to explore important themes and ideas. The poem's enduring relevance is a testament to the power of poetry to provoke thought and inspire change, making it a


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