The Lamb by William Blake – Summary and Questions

The Lamb By William Blake

Short Summary
“The Lamb” is the simplest poem written by William Blake and was published in his collection Songs of Innocence in 1789. In the figure of the lamb, the poem finds the expression of God’s will and the beauty of God’s creation. The poem is told from the point of view of a child who shows an intuitive understanding of the nature of joy and, indeed, the joy of nature. There is little suspicion of urban setting found elsewhere in Blake’s poem “The Lamb.” “The Lamb,” then, is a kind of hymn to God, praising God’s creation while also suggesting that man has lost the ability to fully appreciate it.

The Lamb by William Blake

Detailed Summary and Analysis
The poem is told from the perspective of a child. In this simplest poem, Blake uses a child as the speaker who directly addresses a lamb. He poses some questions and then answers them. The interconnected and repeated questions are both simple and deep – ‘who made thee?’ This answers the paramount question that people have about where we come from and who we are. In bringing this question through an innocent child’s mouth, addressing the most innocent of animals, a lamb, Blake reveals that the children sometimes go to the crux of existence because they have not yet learned to complicate things. You just have to see the reaction of an adult to the question, “Where did I come from?” to realise this.

In the second stanza, the speaker excitingly offers the answer to the question, “Who made there?”. The Lamb was created by him who has the same name as the lamb. This creator is benevolent and loving, and he was once a little child. The speaker too is a child and their creator’s name is shared by both the speaker and the lamb. The speaker then demands that God twice bless the lamb. There is a transition from the physical to the spiritual as the child speaks about Jesus as the creator and saviour of both lamb and child

Thus, the response given by the child in the poem shows innocence–the lamb was made by him who calls himself ‘a lamb’ just as the child was made by him who’ became little child.’ This child and lamb relationship with Jesus reflects the ideas implied in the Introduction and in’ The Shepherd.’ The depiction of Jesus as the child of God and as the lamb is supported by the statement, ‘He is meek and he is mild’, reminiscent of Christmas carols–perhaps, one may claim, the Jesus of Innocence, but also the Jesus who sheltered children in the New Testament by stating that for those who abused them, ‘it were better for them that a millstone were put around their neck and they were cast into the river’.This is also the Jesus who told people, ‘unless you become as little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’

This is the concept which permeates Songs of Innocence. As he reveals in this poem, Blake himself maintained the beautiful ability to see life from a childlike point of view. He insists that the child’s creativity and simplicity will continue as a guiding light in the darkening world of experience. In’ The Lamb ‘ the world of experience is noticeably absent. The engraving portrays the nude child feeding the lambs outside a small country cottage under a defensive canopy of trees.

The lamb is portrayed in its natural setting, frolicking alongside streams and running across fields. Those who made the lamb even gave it its blanket, which is made of fluffy white fur. According to the author, the soft noises of the lamb delight the nearby valleys. The poet has used many images of Nature -‘by the stream,’ ‘o’er the mead, ‘ ‘all the vales,’ and of joy – ‘clothes of delight, ‘ ‘softest clothing woolly bright’, ‘tender voice ‘ and ‘vales rejoice. Life, food, clothing and soft noise describe the lamb’s physical climate. The stream here is the water of life, and the meadows and valleys are created for the lambs and children for free enjoyment.

The poem ends with a brief, childlike prayer,’ Little Lamb, God bless you.’ The poem’s repetitive nature gives it the consistency of a child’s prayer or hymn, and the simple rhythm, strengthened by the use of assonance, reinforces this impression (it could be sung in the style of’ Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!’) as does the rhyme scheme in rhyming pairs–although ‘name’ and ‘lamb’ are half-rhymes. While it is less apparent to modern readers, the repetitive use of the pronoun ‘ thee’ gives the child and the lamb a sense of familiarity and closeness.

Blake’s own theological views centred strongly on Jesus as the mediator between humanity and the one true God – because he was both human and spiritual, just as Blake believed that people were. When asked if he believed in Christ’s divinity, Blake replied, “Yes, Christ was divine… but then so are you and so am I.” He saw Jesus as the one whose most significant role was to place salvation at the heart of Christian faith and love. As such he was the antithesis of the tyrannical, demanding God who used terror to impose arbitrary laws, all starting with’ Thou shalt not…’ In the Songs of Innocence the focus on the lamb is a reminder that Christ was a saviour who gave his life for the salvation of all mankind. It is an echo of the Jewish Passover feast, marked by a lamb’s slaughter and feeding, and the time in Egypt when the lamb’s blood spread over the doorway was a warning to the death angel not to enter the room.

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Q. Why do Christians eat lamb?
Ans. The Jews who converted to Christianity were accustomed to eating roast lamb on Passover, continued the practice at Easter. Moreover, Christians often refer to Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” and it makes sense for the food to turn up at the Easter table.

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