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Give an account of ‘The Lamb’ (no more than 10 lines)

In the first stanza, the poem starts with an innocent question, which suggests that we are listening
to a naïve child’s voice. The simple question however is not only naïve but is profound and
slowly opens underlying complex issues regarding God, creation (lamb) and child. The child
looks around him and uses what he sees to deduce the nature of God. He notices the innocent and
beautiful part of nature as he sees a soft, woolly and happy lamb that is well provided for ‘By the
stream’ and ‘mead’. He deduces then that this must be the nature of God. He imagines God too
must be soft and meek. The second stanza describes the plain development of the child’s
thoughts leading to his answer of his initial question: that we are God’s blessing.

Comment on FIVE features of poetic form and what effect it has

1. Blake uses repetition and refrains to help give the poem a song-like quality as a hymn. It
suggests that Blake may have intended that the poem be set to music. In that case, the
simplicity would be deemed as successful and not so blatant. The repeated lines framing each
stanza underline the apparent development of the child’s thought from his initial question,
through his own answer, to the final blessing.
2. Rhyming couplets add to the rhythm and puts emphasis on certain words to express the
meaning conveyed behind them
3. Diction – the length and choice of words have been carefully thought out to give the poem a
simple structure and beat.
4. The sound emphasis on the letter ‘l’ and soft vowels sounds contribute to the song-like effect,
almost making it similar to a lullaby. It also suggests the bleating of a lamb or of a child’s
chant.
5. The metre is trochaic. This gently distinguishes between the child’s direct address, with the
stresses on the verbs ‘made’, ‘tell’ and ‘bless’, and his elaborating thoughts which are clearly
separated from each other by the strong final sound. The impression created is of a series of
clear and straightforward ideas framed in between the child calling that he has something to
say.

Suggest at least two different interpretations of this poem.

1. It is clear that the poem is not just about an animal (the lamb) or a mere description of a meek
and innocent creature. One interpretation concentrates on the concept of religion, specifically
Christianity. The ‘Lamb’ is linked with Jesus as Lamb of God and as creator (the child tells
the lamb that its marker is ‘called by thy name’). ‘Did he who made the lamb make thee?’
may not be pointing to the issue of creation, but perhaps setting the concept of a ruthless
creator god against a self-sacrificing, loving god.

2. Another interpretation includes with regard to a theme of nature. The simple question, ‘Little
Lamb who made thee’ tells us what the child is attempting, and we realise that this question
is the same as that of countless thinkers over the centuries. The child looks around him and
deduces the concept of God from what he can see. The child’s naïve joy of the whole
countryside is delightful, and his approach to understanding God raises questions in our
minds: Does nature express God? Can we decipher deity by looking at the world around us?
What if the child saw a world of drudgery and ugliness, what sort of God could be deduced
from that? The point is that this beautiful, touching faith is dependent, it depends on the child
continuing to see a gently and joyous nature around him. His faith is good, but only good for
the world within which, for the space of this poem, he exists.

Source/Background Reading: Oxford Student Texts and William Blake, the poems by Nicholas
Marsh

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