William Blake is a remarkable English poet of the middle 18th and 19th centuries who belonged to the Romantic school of thought, but who seemed to be against the Enlightenment in many of his literary works. “The Lamb” is Blake’s well-known poem from the book Songs of Innocence, which is actually the epitome of the concept of innocence as perceived by the author. This poem proves that the poet was a deeply religious and devoted person who praised innocence and belief in God above everything. “The Lamb” is a verbal manifestation of childish innocence built on the basis of Biblical allusions with the help of the masterful use of literary techniques and stylistic devices. Despite its small size, the poem contains a powerful message engrained within the lines, which should appeal to readers through a universal positive attitude to light, innocence, and childhood, notwithstanding their religious beliefs and preferences. Thus, the poem should be considered not merely as the author’s declaration of his religious views, but rather as an appeal to the humanity to preserve their inner innocence and some childish traits in their souls despite vices and corruption represented by the adult world. The current paper is aimed at giving a brief analysis of William Blake’s poem “The Lamb” from the perspective of its major themes, mood, key tropes employed by the author, and symbolism.
Outline “The Lamb” by William Blake
Thesis statement: William Blake’s poem “The Lamb” appeals to readers through such eternally valued concepts as innocence, light, and childhood to urge them to preserve these traits and humanity in their souls, which can be facilitated through devotion to religion.
- William Blake’s poem “The Lamb” is the key masterpiece of his book Songs of Innocence, which focuses on topics contrary to the ones raised in his book Songs of Experience, hence making this poem integral for understanding the author’s views and intentions.
- The importance and meaning of the title should not be overlooked when analyzing the current poem.
- The mood of the poem is light and bright due to the author’s use of respective concepts.
- The literal setting is ambiguous to some extent so that readers can become co-narrators, which enhances the effectiveness of the message conveyed by the author.
- The main themes raised in the poem include innocence, childhood, belief in God and appreciation of Christ.
- The poem under consideration is highly symbolic, which is achieved mainly through the use of Biblical allusions and widely-known concepts.
- William Blake managed to make his poem a sort of manifestation of innocence and purity, while also encouraging readers to turn to God without making this message irritatingly dictatorial and oppressive. Hence, this word-painter appeals to readers with various religious beliefs.
The Poem “The Lamb” by William Blake
William Blake is a well-known English poet who has won international recognition and fame through his masterfully written literary works. Although he lived in the epoch of Romanticism, he remained a highly religious person. The combination of devout traits is manifested in his works, especially in the book Songs of Innocence, from which the poem under discussion has been taken. William Blake’s “The Lamb” appeals to readers through such eternally valued concepts as innocence, light, and childhood to urge them to preserve these traits and humanity in their souls, which can be facilitated through devotion to religion.
This poem is one of the best-known creations of the author, which is often analyzed in comparison to the poem “The Tyger” from his other collection Songs of Experience. The antagonistic nature of themes raised in these two books opposes innocence as represented by childhood and corruption as represented by adulthood.
Title of the poem is extremely significant as it is the first thing that readers perceive when reading a piece of work. In this case, the title performs the prognosticating function and sets the mood for the entire poem. A lamb is a pure and innocent creature that an overwhelming majority of people perceive as something cute and harmless. Moreover, the title of the poem under consideration is the first and major Biblical allusion, which is then repeated throughout the entire text. Thus, Jesus Christ is often referred to as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
As mentioned above, the mood of “The Lamb” is set by the title and then is supported throughout the entire poem. The overall mood is light and cheerful since the poem resembles a nursery rhyme or a religious hymn. The latter was rather popular in the times of William Blake who may have been influenced, for instance, by a song “Gentle Jesus, Meek, and Mild” that also refers to Christ as to the Lamb (Wesley, 1742). This assumption is corroborated by the fact that Blake uses the very same epithets ‘meek’ and ‘mild’ when speaking with the little lamb in the second stanza (Blake, 1789). Through the use of concepts and epithets with positive connotations like “Little Lamb”, “clothing of delight”, “softest clothing wooly bright”, “tender voice”, “rejoice”, “meek”, “mild”, “a little child”, “God bless thee”, the author manages to maintain light and innocent mood throughout both stanzas. The fact that the poem is melodic and resembles a song made for children and by children contributes to this chaste mood and makes the author’s appeal and message even more powerful.
- Literal Setting
Literal setting is ambiguous to some extent as the only thing that readers know for sure is that the narrator is a child who is talking to a lamb. The narrator’s identity is disclosed at the end of the second stanza: “I a child” (Blake, 1789). It may be assumed that the child is talking to the Little Lamb “by the stream” or in a vale, but it is not known for sure. However, this ambiguity relating to the literal setting is intentional and beneficial for the author’s aims as the main focus is the conversation or rather a narration of the child-narrator since the lamb remains a silent interlocutor. This way, readers can become co-narrators in some sense as they themselves may make up details of the setting that are not explicitly stated in the poem.
Main themes raised in the poem include innocence, childhood, belief in God and appreciation of Christ. Lambs and children are symbolic manifestations of innocence as this is the first connotation they usually evoke in readers. Blake’s Songs of Innocence emphasize this theme and bring it to the forefront. The fact that the narrator is a child sets a respectively graceful and blameless tone of the narration. The poem, in general, may be treated as one big allusion to Christ and God, hence representing the author’s religious devotion and adherence to the postulates of Christianity. The first stanza is built as a rhetorical question to the lamb as the narrator hints that the lamb is the only one of the beautiful creations of some powerful being. The second stanza answers this question, and the author clearly believes in the idea of the trinity as he seems to treat God and Christ as one entity: “He is called by thy name, For he calls himself a Lamb… He became a little child” (Blake, 1789). Besides, the author obviously appreciates and honors the sacrifice made by Christ for the sake of humanity, which is also a Biblical allusion.
The poem under consideration is highly symbolic, which is achieved mainly through the use of Biblical allusions and conceptual references. Thus, childhood stands for innocence. The Lamb is not only a symbol of Christ but also of purity and sacrifice. God is acknowledged as the creator of the world and all things in it. All beings seem to be deemed equal by the author: “I a child & thou a lamb, We are called by his name” (Blake, 1789). Symbols used by the author are partly universal and partly Biblical, which proves the double-sided nature of his writings that seem to combine elements of Romanticism and religiosity.
Withal, William Blake managed to make his poem a manifestation of innocence and purity, while encouraging readers to believe in God and honor the creator of everything. The message is conveyed through a narration of a little child who talks to a lamb, which may also be viewed as a metaphor. This scene embodies an allusion of a human being talking to God, as all people are His children and preying is a kind of a one-sided conversation. At a glance, the poem is light and pure writing that will surely leave a positive impression on readers. Upon deeper consideration, it is clear that the poem is a highly symbolic piece of writing with a hidden sense that is subject to multiple interpretations by virtue of allusions, symbols, and connotations.