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The Lamb by William Blake: Summary, Theme & Poem Analysis

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  • 0:01 About William Blake
  • 1:19 Summary of 'The Lamb'
  • 3:17 Themes and Analysis
  • 5:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

This lesson explains the poem 'The Lamb' by William Blake. Its symbolism and themes are described, as well as the higher meaning intended by the author.

About William Blake

'The Lamb' is a short poem written by William Blake, an English poet who lived from 1757 to 1827 and wrote at the beginning of the Romantic movement. This movement centered on human spirituality and expressiveness with a focus on nature. He lived a simple life and worked as an engraver and illustrator in his early adulthood. His poems have a lyric aspect, meaning they are very expressive of his emotions and have a melodic quality. In his later years, he turned more and more towards religion, seeing the bible as the ultimate reference to all that is good and evil. This is a common theme in many of his poems.

In the 1780s and 1790s, Blake published a series of works titled Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. These combined works were given the subtitle Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. The innocence works focus on marveling over the purity and unspoiled naturalness of childhood. Whereas the experience works show the corruption of adulthood, those works have a much darker mood and tone. 'The Lamb' occurs in the Songs of Innocence.

Summary of 'The Lamb'

'The Lamb' is a lyric poem consisting of two 10-line stanzas. Each pair of lines rhyme, with several lines repeating throughout. Read the first stanza and notice the question Blake is posing.

'Little Lamb, who made thee?

Dost thou know who made thee?

Gave thee life, and bid thee feed

By the stream and 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?'

It should be very clear what question Blake is asking. In this first stanza, the speaker is talking directly to a lamb. He asks the animal if he knows who created him. Blake writes of the water and food supplied to the lamb, as well as the soft wool and gentle voice of the lamb. The entire first stanza centers on the question of the creator. Now read the second stanza to find the answer.

'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, and he is mild;

He became a little child.

I a child, and thou a lamb,

We are called by his name.

Little Lamb, God bless thee!

Little Lamb, God bless thee!'

This second stanza supplies the answer proposed in the first stanza. Blake describes the Lord Jesus Christ as the creator of the lamb. Since Jesus is often called the 'Lamb of God,' the symbolism of the animal chosen in the poem is very obvious. Blake also names the similarities between the lamb and the Lord: their name, meekness, and mildness. Blake ends his poem by blessing the lamb for his relation to the Lord.

Themes and Analysis

There is obvious symbolism occurring throughout the two stanzas. It's no mistake that Blake chose a lamb to speak to in the poem. This is clearly a Biblical allusion. The main theme is to praise the Lord for creating such a beautiful world and the virtuous creatures within it. The line, 'He became a child', shows how Blake honors Jesus for coming to the Earth to sacrifice Himself for all mankind.

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