Give a thematic summary of Blake's poems: "The Lamb", "The Little Boy Lost and Found," "A Dream", "The Little Girl Lost and Found."

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Blake's poems, there is a recurring theme of how innocence and experience play formative roles in the formation of individual consciousness. For example, in "The Dream," there is a pain intrinsic to experience and a protective joy within the domain of innocence.  Blake explores this dynamic in lines such as "Pitying, I dropped a tear," aticulating a condition where the individual has lost their way.  There is a definite fear fear of a world where there is no sanctuary in a divine plan.  For Blake, this is the realm of experience, a harsh world where "an emmett lost its way" and where "a tangle spray" and being "heart- broke" present themselves.  There is redemption in the form of "the watchman of the night" who enables the individual to return home, transforming them from a "wanderer."

This same dynamic where the individual was lost and becomes found is seen in both poems that address little children. In "The Little Boy Lost," a child calls out to a father figure that cannot be seen because of a "vapour" that precludes sight. "Dew" and where "the mire was deep" show the child as lost, reflective of the experience that Blake feels is intrinsic to a setting devoid of the divine.  The lack of a divine force that can redeem and guide is akin to the experience of the lost child who calls out the fear of being "lost."  The vision that Blake offers in "The Little Boy Found" counters this narrative.  Innocence is envisioned and redeemed when one is found. "The light" that guides and leads the boy to his mother is redemptive.  Forlorn tears are replaced with tears of joy.  Similar experiences of tragic loss and comic unity can be seen in "The Little Girl Lost," where Lyca was "lost in desert wild."  Lyca is lost in a world where there is no presence of the divine, little in way of a guiding structure or order to being in the world.  Lyca is asleep in a world where she is separated from totality.  This condition in the world is one where Lyca herself is pure ("And the virgin view'd"), but placed in a world where she is lost as an outsider.  When Blake paints the portrait of Lyca being found, it comes in the form of a divine vision that guides: "Follow me,' he said."  Blake suggests that the individual can only be redeemed from being lost through accepting the guidance of something larger than one' self. It is in this portrait that he weaves the vision of "head a crown" and "flow'd his golden hair."  Similar to the dynamics found in "The Little Boy" poems and "A Dream," the individual is in agony at being lost.  They, like Lyca and her parents, are found when they accept the totalizing vision of the divine. The poems' structures highlight how the lost individual can be found through the guidance of the divine.

This same configuration that underscores the power of the divine guides "The Lamb."  Blake uses the refrain of "Little Lamb, Little Lamb, who made thee" to highlight the questions that exist within the individual who is lost.  These questions are resolved in the maker that "calls himself a lamb."  The collective "We are called by his name" emphasizes how the individual can be found when they appropriate the language of the divine. The invocation of "Little Lamb God bless thee" helps to underscore a world where divine love is present, unifying the pain of loss and the constructing order in the submission to the divine for all.

Read the study guide:
Songs of Innocence and of Experience

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