William Blake’s “The Lamb”
“The Lamb,” by William Blake, is from Blake’s Songs of Innocence. Through symbolism of Jesus Christ, rhetorical questions that resemble a catechism, and diction, Blake creates a poem that addresses Christian faith and attempts to answer the question as to “How did we get here?”
The poem is made up of two stanzas, each containing rhyming couplets. This gives it a song-like quality, like a song a small child would sing. It is simple and easy to remember. The repetition of l’s and vowel sounds contribute to this effect, and also suggest the sound a lamb makes or the voice of a child. For instance, words like “little,” delight,” “wooly,” and “tell” all include these factors. The format of the poem also closely resembles a catechism. A catechism is a summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of questions and answers, used for the instruction of Christians. For instance, in the beginning of the poem, the young boy asks the lamb a question. Then, in the second stanza, an answer is given.
The poem begins with the questions, “Little Lamb who made thee?/Dost thou know who made thee?” (lines 1-2). The first question sounds simple and straightforward. The speaker is simply asking the “lamb” who is responsible for it being there. However, as simple as the question seems, it is addressing a philosophical and religious issue that humans have been debating upon since we first walked the earth. “How did we come to be and did someone create us?” The first thing that should be examined though is the lamb. What does it represent? The answer is Jesus Christ. Jesus has been viewed as a lamb and Christians have as well. The image of the child is also associated with Jesus. In the Bible, it tells how Jesus was especially fond of children. The second question, has a sort of mocking tone. The speaker, by the repetition and rewording of the original question, hints that he already knows the answer to the question at hand and he is quizzing the lamb to see if he knows as well. It is almost mocking in a childish sort of way. The word “little” reinforces this mocking tone. The obvious meaning for “little” is small in size, but it can also be condescending if the tone and inflection are changed slightly.
In lines three and four, the speaker extends the question of “Who made thee?” by saying, “Gave thee life and bid thee feed/By the steam and o’er the mead…” These lines describe what a lamb does on a daily basis except it is saying that these actions do not entirely belong...