The Clod and the Pebble

The Clod and the Pebble – William Blake

An Analysis of The Clod and the Pebble

by Chinyere Nwosu

September 5, 2021

The Clod and the Pebble

    by William Blake

“Love seeketh not itself to please,

Nor for itself hath any care,

But for another gives its ease,

And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair”.


So sung a little Clod of Clay,

Trodden with the cattle’s feet

But a Pebble of the brook

Warbled out these metres meet:


“Love seeketh only itself to please,

To bind another to its delight,

Joys in another’s loss of ease,

And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite”.

Analysis

The Clod and the Pebble was first published in Songs of Innocence and Experience (1794). William Blake creates a succinct description of love in two different ways. The tone of the poem leaves the reader to make his own decision on which type of love is better and when to use each. It made it clear that both perspectives have advantages and disadvantages.

Themes

The nature of love is the central theme. He first is selfless and the other selfish. The views show the opposing sides of love – sacrifice and generosity to make others happy (the clod) and taking, hurting others to make yourself happy (the pebble). The poem does not argue that either of these viewpoints is correct. In a way, the poem implies that love is a combination of selfishness and selflessness. It also warns about how love may damage the lover by making him too submissive or too self-absorbed (lines 6 & 7).

Many believe that William Blake’s poem – The Clod and the Pebble – speaks of innocence and experience. They argue that it is about the different stages of life and represents how we love. This may also be accepted as a possible interpretation of the theme given that the work is part of Blake’s collection Songs of Innocence and Experience (Songs of Experience – 1794, Songs of Innocence – 1789). 

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Literary devices.

The main literary device used in this poem is personification.

Blake personifies the Clod and the Pebble. Personification appears in the poem in different ways. First, the poem opens with the song of the clod (stanza 1). The clod speaks of its view of love based on its humble approach to life. Then it proceeds to share the song of the pebble (stanza 3). The pebble has an opposing view to that of the clod and focuses on self-aggrandizement.

In subtle ways, the clod represents passivity and victimhood. It also speaks of a naïve notion and lack of experience. It is open and receptive. In contrast, the pebble is stone-hearted, cold, and hard. Its selfish attitude is probably fueled by experience.

The clod speaks of a more optimistic kind of love with a naïve perspective. The first stanza is the clod’s voice. It is enriching, kind, selfless, and willing to sacrifice. The pebble in stanza three disagrees with the clod. In the pebble’s voice, love is pure selfishness and sadistic. The last line in both stanzas 1 and 3 (lines 4 and 12) clearly states the outcome of each type of love. For the clod, giving and caring for others creates a Heaven even in the face of Misery (line 4). For the pebble, taking and inflicting pain builds a Hell even in the middle of plenty and beauty (line 12).

The poem uses few words to portray complex ideas. A deeper look into the poem throws light on some other aspects of life. For instance, the clod’s view of love agrees with some tenets of Christian belief about love – selflessness, giving, kindness, care, optimism in the face of adversity, etc. The pebble’s view aligns with the pirate code – take all you can, give nothing back.

The presentation of the verses also does not separate love into different contexts. It leaves the reader to decide how the two sides of love may apply in the different types of relationships we engage. It does not restrict the word love to humanity alone but also identifies love as a force.

Alliteration and assonance appear in Blake’s description of the pebble’s song.

Line 8 – Warbled out these metres meet:

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In summary

The Clod and the Pebble are a pair – contrasting, but each view remains relevant. The Clod and the Pebble, therefore, are defined by the following –

  • Selfless/Selfish
  • Giving/Taking
  • Heaven/ Hell
  • Innocence/Experience

The true nature of love lies somewhere in between these two – The Clod and the Pebble.

 

Comments (16)

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  3. This poem taught me a lot in life.

    December 29, 2023 at 3:07 pm
  4. Love this!

    January 1, 2024 at 3:06 am
  5. Beautiful poem

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  6. I read this poem when I was in high school

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