Analysis of “The Clod and the Pebble” Poem by William Blake

The Clod and the Pebble“The Clod and the Pebble” by William Blake is a song first published in his 1794 collection “Songs of Innocence and of Experience” along with “The Tyger“. This poem is about love, innocence, and experience. It begins with the Clod of Clay discussing its innocent belief of love and ends with the Pebble’s belief of love being selfish.

William Blake was born on November 28, 1757. He was a self-proclaimed prophet. He was influenced by political activist Thomas Paine, thinker Emanuel Swedenborg, and poet John Milton. Before his poetry became famous, he was largely known for his invention of relief etching.

William Blake was largely uncelebrated during his lifetime and considered mad by his contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, but in 2002 BBC ranked him at number 38 for the 100 Greatest Britons and Jonathan Jones proclaimed him as “far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced”.

Let’s take a quick look at a summary of William Blake’s “The Clod and the Pebble” and then have a look at some figurative language he uses and an analysis of the writing.

Summary

“The Clod and the Pebble” is a poem about love and how it is both selfish and selfless to feel and live in such a state. The poem is divided into two parts with a Clod of Clay and Pebble discussing their views about love.

The Clod of Clay begins by singing how love is selfless and compares it to Heaven. This viewpoint can be related to how a teenager might view love. A clod of clay is soft, and still easily formed by life as it ages. It is then walked over by a cattle’s feet.

The Pebble is next. It discusses how love is selfish only meant to fulfill a person’s own desires. He compares it to Hell. The Pebble represents a person already hardened by time, an experienced person.

Analysis

Title: The Clod and the Pebble
Style: iambic and trochaic meters
Theme: Love, innocence and experience
Tone: Reality of love
Rhyme scheme: ABAB in stanzas 1 and 3 with ABCB in stanza 2

Line-by-line Analysis and Figurative Language

    • Love seeketh not itself to please, – Love isn’t selfish
    • Nor for itself hath any care, – it doesn’t care about itself
    • But for another gives its ease, – loving another person is what makes it feel at ease
    • And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair. – Loving another person helps build a heaven despite the rest being hell.
    • So sung a little Clod of Clay – “Clod of Clay” is an alliteration and personification. It signifies someone who hasn’t lived through life very long, an innocent person.
    • Trodden with the cattle’s feet, – A soft person is easily walked all over and hurt.
    • But a Pebble of the brook / Warbled out these metres meet: “brook” is another word for creek. Pebble is signifying an experienced, hardened person. The Pebble is being personified and will sing the next stanza.
    • Love seeketh only self to please, / To bind another to its delight, – Here we have the contrasting opinion of the Clod of Clay. The Pebble is saying love is selfish.
    • Joys in another’s loss of ease, – The Pebble is saying that we get joy by making others feel uncomfortable.
    • And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite. – We build a hell with love despite everything else being heaven.

Poem: “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 self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”

Reader’s Reaction

This poem by William Blake is quite interesting and leaves many questions to be asked. Why does he use an experienced person to compare love to hell? Why is innocence comparing love to heaven? Blake was married to the same woman his whole life and was never unfaithful. He even wrote once about how he believed marriage was for love and not for money or status (which was a controversy during his age). Perhaps he sees himself as the clod of clay and others as the pebble.

Gary R. Hess

Gary was born and raised on a small farm in rural Kansas. Today, he is teaching various nationalities English in Southeast Asia. Get his newest poetry eBook here.