THE LAMB BY WILLIAM BLAKE
A child addresses a lamb. He puts several interrogations to know what does the Lamb know of itself. Does it know who has made it, given it life, meadows to graze and the water of the stream to drink? Does it know also Who has given comfortable woolly covering on its body, and a soft voice to echo pleasantly all over the valley?
He repeats his question to know whether the lamb is aware of its Maker. Stanza 2: The child assures the lamb that he will tell it of its Creator, Who is designated as the lamb. He is gentle and tender, calls Himself a lamb and became a little child himself. The child knows that the lamb and he himself are one with Him and called by His name. Finally, he invokes God’s blessing repeatedly for the lamb.
Substance A child enquires of a little lamb whether it knows its Creator, Who provides it with food, drink, the cosy clothing of fleece and a soft and sweet voice to delight. He also assures the lamb that he will tell it of its Creator Who is kind and gentle. He is one with His little creations, like the lamb and the child himself. After all, He identifies Himself with them. The child invokes God’s blessing for the little lamb.
Theme and Symbolic Significance
Blake’s The Lamb is a short, simple and straight-forward song of a little child. The child addresses the lamb in the simple language of a child and conveys some deeper spiritual truths through several interrogations. The child’s complacent enquiry to the lamb is about its Creator Who is all merciful, gentle and loving. He wants to know from the little creature whether it knows Who has made it, given life to it, provided it with sustenance and endowed it with an enchanting voice to thrill the whole valley.
The child stands here for simplicity. The nature of his questions, as distinctly evident, is all plain, straight and comprehensive and implies that he knows the answer. That is, again, an indication of his spiritual vision, though naturally yet unconsciously expressed.
In fact, the child comes out complacently with the answer which he knows and which the lamb does not. He seems to know the Creator and goes to enlighten the lamb, in his usual child-like manner, of the nature of the Creator. In his view, the Creator is alike the child and the lamb, meek and mild. He identifies the Creator with the lamb and himself. Out of his simple faith and unsophisticated knowledge, he establishes a profound but plain identification between the Creator, that is God, and the created, including the lamb and the child himself.
Here comes the deeper note-the inner significance-of the child’s apparently simple interrogations and assertions. Without introducing any intricate theological issue, usually involved in the interpretation of the relation between the Creator and the creation, Blake’s child strikes a starkly simple note.
This is one of Christian faith and love and emphasises plainly the oneness of the Creator and the creation. So, This is the supreme spiritual vision in which all seems to be full of blessings, enriched with joy and harmony all around. This is a sort of spiritual symbolism, much simpler but more Christian, than Wordsworth’s pantheism.
This is a song of innocence. Blake’s child stands for innocence. He believes in the Creator and views the creation as the glorious manifestation of His grace and bounty. The little lamb, too, is a creature of innocence and bears in it the glory and love of the Creator.
The highly provocative religious and spiritual controversy is summed up and signified in the child’s unprejudiced conviction of the greatness of the Creator and the glory of His creation. Through his little child, Blake carves out, in a suggestively symbolic style, a deep matter of spiritual significance—the relation between the Creator and the created.
The Lamb is, no doubt, a simple, melodious song of childhood. Yet, underneath what is all plain and clear, there is a significance, deeper enough, for the adult world. The child perceives intuitively oneness between the Creator and His creation through his clear and innocent faith that is free from any selfish or personal consideration. He feels an instinctive sense of synthesis between God and His created world through his unconventional, mystical vision.
“I a child, and thou a lamb. We are called by His name.”
This is Blake’s mystical symbolism, built on both faith and vision in childhood.
Annotations Commentaries Stanza 1. Little Lamb-the song is an address to lamb by a child. The child is little. And he finds the lamb as little as he himself is. So he calls this little’. Who made thee-who is the creator of the lamb. The child puts the question to the lamb whether it knows its creator. Dost thou ….. thee-this is the repetition of the same song. The repetition serves to add to the song-like quality of the poem.
The child’s knows the answer. instinctive faith in God as the Creator of all comes out here distinctly.
Gave thee life-the child goes to enumerate the gifts of great God to the little lamb. He gave it very life. Bid thee feed-He arranged for the food of the lamb and taught it to graze in the meadow and enjoy fresh grass and vegetation. By the stream-there is the clear water of the stream, ready for the lamb to drink. O’er the mead-over the valley to graze.
N. B. The child knows and enlightens his companion, the little lamb, how the kind Creator has arranged for its food in the meadow and drink in the clear water of the stream.
Gave thee clothing-God is, too kind and loving to provide His creatures with an adequate protection. The little lamb is protected against the rough weather by the fine woolly covering over its body. The soft, bright, warm wool over its body accords a happy protection to its body against cold and rain. Softest bright-a simple child’s description to denote well the nature of the woolly surface of the lamb’s body.
N. B. “The clothing of delight’ refers to the comfortable fleece that grows on the body of the lamb. There is an implication, obvious enough, of God’s attention to little creatures. Plain speaking leads to high-light God’hlessings for the lamb
Gave thee ……. voice-God has also blessed the lamb with a sweet, soft vioce. Making all rejoice-the sweet vioce of the lamb is echoed and re-echoed all over the valley and makes this all delightful and happy.
Little lamb ….. etc.-The initial question is repeated. This makes the song more natural as a song of childhood.
N. B. The child’s enquiry includes a number of elements relating to the Creator and His blessings to the created.
The child’s question is all through of childhood innocence. He speaks with an intuitive attachment to the lamb, and bears an instinctive joy of innocence at the knowledge of what the little lamb does not. But he remains ever a child and never crosses the threshold of adult knowledge and understanding.
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee-this just follows the first line of the first stanza, just as the second line follows the second of the second stanza. These two lines are complementary ‘to the first two lines of the second stanza.
The child assures the lamb of his knowledge of the Creator that it ……
does not. This assurance has a childlike simplicity along with a simple sense of delight for his knowledge that the lamb has not.
He is called by thy name-This has a Biblical reference. God is characterised as a shepherd, rearing His pasture. He calls a Lamb God who looks upon as innocent and simple as the lamb. He is Lamb-the child speaks of the identification of the lamb with God.Whatever, He tries to show that the Creator is not too high or mighty for the little lamb.
N. B. The use of Capital ‘L’ for the Lamb serves to emphasise its oneness with God. The child, no doubt, raises a theological issue, for the identification of the Creator and the created is sought. But the child speaks like a child, out of his stark faith and simplicity, and not like a theologian.
He is meek-God is, according to the child, very gentle. He is mild-God is very soft. God is described as very gentle and quiet. This is, of course, the child’s intuitive feeling. To him, He is nothing extraordinary, but, like his companion, the little Lamb, and himself. Once again the child talks, with a simple faith, of oneness between the Creator and the created.
la child, and thou a lamb—the child does not claim his superiority to the lamb. There is a likeness between the two-the child and the lamb. We-the lamb and the child. His name-as one with God. I a child His name-God is identified with the lamb and the child.
N. B. What the child asserts is that God, the Creator, and the lamb and he himself, the created, are one. He perceives in the lamb and himself, a manifestation of the Creator, that is God.
Little Lamb, God …… thee-this is the child’s invocation to God for His blessing to the little lamb. His innocent good sense is struck here. The child’s self-less good wishes is clear. He prays for the lamb, not for himself.
Little Lamb thee- repeats the strain . This is for emphasizing the song-like quality of the poem.
N. B. As already noted, the child invokes God’s blessing for the little lamb, and not for himself. His innocent, pure, selfless nature comes out here. In fact, he is yet to have the experience of worldly selfishness. That is why, he seeks the Creator’s blessing for the little lamb.
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