William Blake’s “The Lamb”
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?
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!
THE LAMB Thematically, the work exalts the goodness of the creator and finds within the creator a source of gentleness, selflessness, and love. The idea of a kind creator is expressed by the alignment of the creator with the most gentle creation – the lamb
William Blake’s “The Lamb” has a singular topic and theme which is achieved through: *nursery-rhyme repetition and refrain with predictable, immediate rhyme scheme & end-stopped line *rhetorical questioning followed by an immediate and simple answer *word choice which calms and soothes - verbs of giving such as “made” and “gave”
The setting is described by the green vale - a pastoral scene with stream. It is a setting of spendor and abundance, where all needs are met. Words such as: “tender, ” “meek, ” and “wooly” emphasize gentle nature.
Another means by which the poet reassures the reader of the gentle and benevolent nature of the creator, is through the extention of the association of lamb to creator to include lamb to all humans and all readers to the poet and all readers to the lamb. It is in a sense encompassing all creations in its shadow of goodness.
The use of repetition and parallelism allows for a very predictable and simple presentation which is nothing less than intentionally child-like.
The speaker of the poem is like one who whispers to a child awakened in the night, whispering sweet assurances and offering comfort. He addresses the reader
However, just as innocence is a simpler state than experience, “The Lamb” is simpler in design and concept than its counterpoem “The Tyger. ”
William Blake’s “The Tyger”
Tyger! burning bright, In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare sieze the fire? And what shoulder, & what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp? When the stars threw down their spears, And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee? Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
“The Tyger” has been described by one critic as Blake’s “most fully developed art - a process using small revelations leading to greater discoveries through profound use of symbol. ”
The rhetorical technique of guided questioning leads readers to greater doubts regarding the goodness of the creator. And the use of apostrophe to directly address the tiger makes the question more daring.
A careful examination of the method of questioning leads to an amazing discovery. The word “what” is used over a dozen times in this short poem. The work questions the creator, yet it does not ask WHO? , instead it asks WHAT? This may be reflective of how inhumane the creation of the
The refrain of “Tiger, Tiger burning bright” is emphasized by alliteration because it is important to note that the horror and evil is also one that “burns bright. ” The poem is full of the duality of the tiger’s horrid power – horrible, yet in a way that inspires mortal awe.
Stylistically, the poem is constructed of pairs of rhyming couplets. A strong and appropriate rhythm is created through the use of stressed and unstressed syllables. The pattern results in a primitive “drum beat” that
Careful readers note several allusions. In line 7 a possible reference to Icarus and Daedelus; to Prometheus in line 8; to Lucifer and his angels in lines 17 and 18; and also to the God of Old Testament The simple use of exclamation
The union of terror and awe gives the work a tone of religious reverence which is mature when you consider that the response to the tiger could have been easily simplified to one of fear.
The creation verbs “twist, ” “dare, ” “burnt, ” and “seize” emphasize the danger and daring of the creation act, while the place of creation is described as a distant, fiery, furnace. And the “hammer, ” “anvil, ” and “furnace” are images of an industrial revolution which Blake would
We are reminded of the power of this duality in the phrase “fearful symmetry” – this word choice emphasizes the tiger’s masterful design – the symmetry is by design worthy of our recognition even though
The creator persona featured in the poem “twisted the sinews” of the tiger heart. These sinews are the tendons which make the heart work; they are the source of power, the biological engine as well as a symbol of the
Many critics recognize a parallel between the creator persona and the role of the artist. As the creator brings life that is considered good and bad, so too does the artist. Blake was familiar with the pressure to
This lovely summary from critic C. K. Tower, sums up the effect of the work nicely: The effect of the last two lines throws into clear relief the unresolved antagonism between the divine perspective suggested throughout and the speaker's terrified and morally disdainful perspective. The god smiles, the man cowers. But while the man cowers, he has a growing sense of understanding for God's smile. It could be a wicked and sadistic smile, but it could also be the smile of an artist who has forged the richest most indispensable of conceivable worlds, a world that contains both the tiger and the lamb.
COMPARISON/JUXTAPOSITIO N *both are creation poems *structure of the ”The Lamb” is more obviously singular when compared with the complexity of “The Tyger, ” whose complexity is achieved through layered questions without answers, while the Lamb poses a simple, singular
It’s interesting that the end rhyme scheme for both poems have much similarity. Both poems employ end rhymes with “ee” sounds or “ight” sounds. Many consider that an intentional parallel
*The 2 contrary states of the human soul expressed in the anthology’s title (Innocence and Experience) are nicely personified in the ideas of these two animals – the Lamb and the Tiger. As a Biblical allusion, the idea resonates well beyond the simple idea of the animals. The reader might well remember the “peaceable kingdom” and wonder if the lion can lie with the lamb? Can the two be reconciled?
When juxtaposed with the "The Lamb, " “The Tyger” counters the singular presentation of a good creator by accepting and embracing both the lamb and the tiger. It embraces the two attitudes at once, thus enlarging the idea of the creator. This creator has both the capacity for tenderness and dread.
This new experience or understanding is one which has all the benefits of knowledge after the fall – it is a full and truer knowledge, but one that includes sorrow, fear, and the realization of man’s own weakness compared to that of the higher creator. The innocent portrayal of childhood in “The Lamb” is an attractive one,
Therefore, in comparison, “The Lamb” becomes even more singular in concept as well as design. It becomes “quaint, ” rather than believable. As in the case of true experience, the counterpoem has us enlightened to the duality and now we are no longer content with the singular ideal, even if it is a comforting one.