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.
The poetic voice in “The Lamb” is that of a small child who tends a flock of sheep. Here, the child directly addresses a lamb. The second stanza makes the connection between the lamb and Christ. The words and meter echo Charles Wesley’s hymn “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild” and other children’s hymns. Blake frequently sang his poems at public performances to tunes of his own composition or to popular hymns and folk tunes.
My mother bore me in the southern wild, And I am black, but O! my soul is white; White as an angel is the English child: But I am black as if bereav’d of light.
“The Little Black Boy” stands as a dialogue between the title character and his mother. In form, the poem is a ballad—the musical dialogue is a folk ballad convention. Here, in the first stanza, the little boy wonders about the difference between himself and English children. The boy knows that inside he and the English child are alike. However, he feels different and inferior—after all, in England, all angels he sees are white.
When I from black and he from white cloud free, And round the tent of God like lambs we joy: I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear, To lean in joy upon our fathers knee. And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair, And be like him and he will then love me.
“The Little Black Boy” ends with the boy’s vision of a future in which he and the white boy are free from being black or white and play as equals before God. The boy achieves this vision after his mother reassures him of God’s love. The mother’s explanation and the son’s innocent acceptance of her words contrast painfully with the reality of slavery. The irony is intentional.
No no let us play, for it is yet day And we cannot go to sleep Besides in the sky, the little birds fly And the hills are all cover’d with sheep
“The Nurse’s Song” takes the form of a ballad and details a dialogue between a nurse and the children she watches over. While the nurse speaks most of the lines in the poem, the children voice the lines of the third stanza, as shown here. They respond to their nurse’s request to stop playing for the day and return home. The children, little birds, and sheep all represent innocent happiness and harmony with nature. Blake includes these motifs frequently in this poetry.