The Lamb by William Blake

‘The Lamb’ by William Blake was included in The Songs of Innocence published in 1789. It is  regarded “as one of the great lyrics of English Literature.” In the form of a dialogue between the child and the lamb, the poem is an amalgam of the Christian script and pastoral tradition.

The lamb is a universal symbol of selfless innocence, Jesus the Lamb is the gentle imagination, the Divine Humanity. The Lamb identifies with Christ to form a Trinity of child, Lamb, and Redeemer.

The poem presents the ideal of charity substantiating Christian compassion and Caritas or caring, the ideals of the Lamb of God. However, the Christian connotations also contain the implications of sacrifice, death, and tragedy; Christ the human sacrifice who look upon himself the sings of the world.”

The Lamb by William Blake


Summary of The Lamb 

‘The Lamb’ by William Blake is a warm and curious poem that uses the lamb as a symbol for Christ, innocence, and the nature of God’s creation.

Throughout the two stanzas of this poem, the poet speaks to the lamb, asking it if it knows who was responsible for creating it. He goes into vague detail about Christ, his nature, while using repetition to emphasize these features.

 

Themes in The Lamb

In ‘The Lamb’ Blake explores themes of religion, innocence, and morality. Throughout the lines, he, or his speaker, expresses his appreciation for God and what he represents. The “lamb,” or Christ, should be a source of celebration for all who see or hear him. Its innocence is one of the most important features. All people should strive for the image of the lamb.

 

Structure of The Lamb

‘The Lamb’ by William Blake consists of two stanzas, each with five rhymed couplets. Repetition in the first and last couplet of each stanza turns these lines into a refrain and helps in providing the poem its song-like quality. The flowing l’s and soft vowel sounds also make a contribution to this effect, and also bring forth the bleating of a lamb or the lisping character of a child’s chant.

 

Literary Devices in The Lamb

In ‘The Lamb’ Blake makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to alliteration, enjambment, and repetition. The latter, repetition, can be seen through the use and reuse of lines. For example, “Little Lamb I’ll tell thee” in the second stanza. This increases the nursery rhyme-like sound of the verse. Enjambment is another technique that helps with the flow of this particular poem. For example, the transitions between lines one and two of the first stanza.

Alliteration is a very helpful technique that poets can use to put added emphasis on particular phrases or increase the rhyme and rhythm of the poem. Take for example the words “Little Lamb” in line one of the first stanza and “meek” and “mild” in line five of the second stanza.

 

Analysis of The Lamb

Stanza One

Little Lamb who made thee

Dost thou know who made thee

Gave thee life & bid thee feed.

By the stream & o’er the mead;

Gave thee clothing of delight,

Softest clothing wooly bright;

Gave thee such a tender voice,

Making all the vales rejoice!

Little Lamb who made thee

Dost thou know who made thee

The Lamb is a didactic poem. In this poem, the poet pays a tribute to Lord Christ who was innocent and pure like a child and meek and mild like a lamb. The little child asks the lamb if he knows who has created it, who has blessed it with life, and with the capacity to feed by the stream and over the meadow. The child asks him if the lamb knows who has given it bright and soft wool, which serves as its clothing, who has given it a tender voice that fills the valley with joy.

In the first stanza of ten lines of William Blake’s poem The Lamb, the child who is supposed to be speaking to the lamb, gives a brief description of the little animal as he sees it. The lamb has been blessed with life and with the capacity to feed by the stream and over the meadow; it has been endowed with bright and soft wool which serves as its clothing; it has a tender voice which fills the valley with joy.

The readers here are provided with a true portrait of a lamb. In the poem, the child of innocence repeatedly asks the lamb as to who made him. Does he know who created him (the lamb)? The same question has been put repeatedly all through the first lines of the poem. The child addresses Little Lamb to ask him who made him and wants to ascertain whether he knows who made him. The child wants to know who gave the Lamb his life, who fed him while living along the river on the other said of the meadow. H also wants to know from the Lamb who supplied him with pleasant body-cover (clothing) which is softest, full of wool and shining.

The Lamb is also asked by the child who gave him such a delicate bleating voice, which resounds a happy note in the surrounding valleys. The stanza is marked by the child’s innocence which is the first stage in Blake’s journey to the truth.

“The Child of Innocence lives by intuition enjoys a spontaneous communion with nature and sees the divine in all things.”

 

Stanza Two

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!

He is called by thy name,

For he calls himself a Lamb:

He is meek & he is mild,

He became a little child:

I a child & thou a lamb,

We are called by his name.

Little Lamb God bless thee.

Little Lamb God bless thee.

In the second stanza of the poem, there is an identification of the lamb, Christ, and the child. Christ has another name, that is, Lamb, because Christ is meek and mild like lamb. Christ was also a child when he first appeared on this earth as the Son of God. Hence the appropriateness of the following lines: “He became a little child:/I a child & thou a lamb,/We are called by his name.” The child in this poem speaks to the lamb as if the lamb were another child and could respond to what is being said. The child shows his deep joy in the company of the lamb who is just like him, meek, and mild. The poem conveys the spirit of childhood – the purity, the innocence, the tenderness of childhood, and the affection that a child feels for little creatures.

A religious note is introduced in the poem because of the image of Christ as a child. The Lamb is a pastoral poem. The pastoral poem note in Blake is another symbol of joy and innocence. In the next ten lines of the second stanza from William Blake’s poem The Lamb, the child himself proceeds to answer the questions he has asked the Lamb in the first stanza. The child says that the person, who has created the Lamb and has given many gifts described in the first stanza, is himself by the name of the Lamb.

It is Jesus Christ who calls himself a Lamb. Jesus the Lamb is meek (submissive) and mild (soft-natured), and he became a child for the sake of mankind. The narrator (I) is a child, he is Lamb and they both are called by Jesus’s name. The Lamb identifies with Christ to form a Trinity of Child, Lamb, and Redeemer (Jesus).


Personal Comments to The Lamb

The Lamb by William Blake has been written in the form of question and answer. Where its first stanza is descriptive and rural, the second concentrates on abstract spiritual matters and consists of analogy and explanation. The question of the child is both profound and naïve, and the apostrophic form of the poem makes a contribution to the effect of naiveté since the situation of a child in discourse with an animal is a convincing one and not just a literary contrivance. Still, by giving answers to his own question, the child succeeds in converting it into a rhetorical one, as a result countering the initial spontaneous sense of the poem. The answer is depicted as a riddle or a puzzle, and even though it’s an easy one—child’s play—this also helps in contributing to an essential sense of sardonic knowingness or artifice in the poem. However, the child’s answer discloses his self-reliance in his simple Christian faith and his innocent acceptance of its teachings.


Life of William Blake

William Blake was the most remarkable poet among the precursors of the Romantic Revival in English. The son of a hosier, Blake was born in London in November 1757. His father James Blake and his mother Catherine were both Dissenters. There were five children in the family, Blake was the second one. It appears that the denial and deprivation of love from the family might have generated in Blake’s mind, an exotic imaginary world of his own. At the age of seven, he was sent to a good drawing school in the strand, and four years later, in 1772, he began a seven years apprenticeship in engraving under James Besire. He was an engraver to the London Society of Antiquaries, where he learned his craft as well as acquiring some of his poetical and political opinions. In 1779 he began studying at the Royal Academy and within a year began exhibited pictures there, often with historical themes. At twenty-four he married Catherine Boucher, who was illiterate. So, he taught her to read, write, and make colors and prints. He never had children, but he was devoted to his younger brother Robert and taught him drawing and nursed him.


Similar Poems

‘The Lamb’ is one of Blake’s best-known poems. But, there are many others on the similar subject matter, whether religion or nature, that are just as good. These include ‘The Divine Image,’ ‘Auguries of Innocence,’ and The Garden of Love‘. Other poems from other poets include Holy Innocents‘ by Christina Rossetti and First Sight‘ by Philip Larkin.


Works of William Blake

William Blake’s poetry is as delighted as it is challenging, and its wide appeal ranges from the deceptive cadence of his lullaby-like pastorals and songs to the troubling notes of the tragedy of the lapsed soul and the stormy music of the prophetic works. The writings of Blake may be classified under the following literary heads:

  1. Lyrical poems, including Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience
  2. Irregular rhyme-less verse
  3. Rhythmic prose and
  4. Descriptive and critical prose

However, Blake’s most widely read poems are contained in Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience.

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  • Avatar Rindu Rao says:

    Last line of the poem is repeated one ,if we take this ironically it will show a another analysis. Though this poem typically dedicates Christ, Blake is of devil’s party we know in his other poems. The lamb is innocent meek and mild and the symbol of God’s beauty. He never wants its violence. But here the poet pray for bless ,so we can think easily that lamb may fall in danger whoever made it.

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      So being as the lamb is a symbol of christianity, or Jesus himself that the message here is that religion is under threat?

  • Avatar Anila NS says:

    Good distribution and thank you its very useful ?

    • Emma Baldwin Emma Baldwin says:

      You’re very welcome!

  • Avatar Sufai says:

    Not bad

  • Avatar Goutam mal says:

    What kind of feelings is appeared in the last two lines, and why does the poet repeated the last two lines??

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      I think the last two lines are deeply sentimental as they are asking for the child to be blessed. When a line of poetry is repeated It is called a refrain and is usually used to make a point emphatically.

  • Avatar Nahid says:

    I dont understand! Blake has orthodox beliefs but this is didactic in religious way ? I though it could be ironic! Maybe im wrong I dont underestand

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      a didactic poem is one designed to improve your mind and help you grow spiritually. Hope that clears it up for you.

  • Avatar Ss says:

    What is the foot and the meter of the poem please??

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      I’m not very good with stresses! I believe it’s anapestic Dimeter – but I wouldn’t quote me on that!

  • U should speak about the historical background of this text

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      Hi there, it does talk about the context of the poem in the opening paragraph.

  • Avatar shafna says:

    a very good analysis of the poem….
    and too simple also…
    thanks..

  • Avatar Bikram Sarkar says:

    It will be helpful for students. Thank you for providing such an amazing analysis of the poem.

    • i could do better

      • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

        haha – love the confidence. You should drop us an email we are always on the lookout for new writing talent!

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