Thursday, July 11, 2013

Analysis of "The Lamb" by William Blake

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Lamb" by William Blake
Originally read: March 20, 2013
More information about the Poet:  William Blake


As promised long ago, this poem is a companion piece to "The Tyger" by William Blake.  Here's my "analysis" of "The Tyger" here.   Why the quotes around analysis?  Because the poem has been explicated to death by Academia, and so, what is there to add to an analysis of this poem?  Instead I listed different types of analysis and how each image, symbol, line, theme, idea, etc. is looked through from the lens of certain critiques.

For, "The Tyger"  I looked at the poem through: Marxist Criticism, Structuralist Criticism, and Atheist Criticism (not really a criticism, but looking at the poem through at an objective [not scientific] lens).  So, conveniently, I should look at this poem and the connections through opposite means.

Note, the notes I wrote about "The Tyger" still apply and greatly determines how I read this poem:

1) This poem is found in "The Song of Innocence" which sets up a sense of time, distance, age to the poems in the collection.  This implication is relied heavily on for analysis.

2) The poem is a companion poem.  It's companion is "The Lamb" which is found in "The Song of Innocence" which indicates a contrast through the distance of separate poems rather than stanzas or within the same book even.  This implication is also heavily reliled on.


I hesitated on writing a couple of interpretations on this poem (2 days this has been up).  Why?  Because literary criticism all leads to the same place, one side has the power, the other doesn't.  So here's what I'm going to do just so I can write.  I'm going to do the opposite. 

This analysis, instead of being objective, will be completely subjective (or at least admit that this particular analysis cannot be completely objective).  No, this isn't reader response, but hopefully, this will jump start my writer's block (I'm behind in posts to be equal to one a day).

The Lamb

As the poem goes on the repetition brings a sense of questioning, not specifically to the reader, but to the lamb itself:

1) Who gave thee life?
2) Who gave thee clothing of delight?
3) Who gave thee such a tender voice?

Weakness?  Luxury? Decadence?  No, this is weighted judgments.  The repetition and the one sidedness of the lines make me want to see the cynicism -- to correlate the lines to the "Tyger" and say "Aha, these lines show that the Lamb is symbol of the weak and the decadent.

No.  Enough.  The speaker, like in the "Tyger," is the driving force behind the rhetorical question.  The subject, "The Lamb" and "The Tyger" are just conduits for these questions.  It's the only safe route if questioning the divine.

For example, instead of being accusatory "You did this."  The poem takes the direction of "Someone did this, and I'm going to give descriptions on who."

So when the speaker turns to a descriptive label to who, "he calls himself a lamb" "he became a little child" -- these are allusions to Catholicism with Jesus.  Then there's a shift of image Lamb = God, in a sense and wit the last lines repeating themselves "Little Lamb God bless thee. / Little Lamb God bless thee."  Makes me wonder who needs to be blessed?  The Lamb God, the Lamb, or the God?


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