“The Little Black Boy”, by William Blake

Textual Analysis

Songs of Innocence - W. Blake
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From Songs of Innocence (1789)

             My mother bore me in the southern wild,

             And I am black, but oh my soul is white!

             White as an angel is the English child,

             But I am black, as if bereav’d of light.

5           My mother taught me underneath a tree,

             And, sitting down before the heat of day,

             She took me on her lap and kissed me,

             And, pointing to the east, began to say:

             “Look on the rising sun: there God does live,

10         And gives His light, and gives His heat away,

             And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive

             Comfort in morning, joy in the noonday.

             “And we are put on earth a little space,

             That we may learn to bear the beams of love,

15         And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face

             Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

             For when our souls have learn’d the heat to bear,

             The cloud will vanish, we shall hear His voice,

             Saying: “Come out from the grove, my love & care,

20         And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice”.

             Thus did my mother say, and kissèd me,

             And thus I say to little English boy.

             When I from black and he from white cloud free,

             And round the tent of God like lambs we joy,

25         I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear

             To lean in joy upon our Father’s knee;

             And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,

             And be like him and he will then love me.

Questions: Use the text and the notes on the author to support your answers that MUST be handwritten on paper (no computer writing allowed)

1. In line 3 the speaker refers to the English boy, where do you think he comes from? Give reasons to your answer.

2. What does his mother tell him about God and what will happen to him when he will meet God?

3. Find a metaphor of the place where the speaker comes from and explain it.

4. Find words and phrases referring to natural elements and using them as examples, say what they imply.

5. Rewrite the verbs you find in the fifth stanza and say what idea they convey.

6. Find a simile referring to the English child. How does it contrast with the image of the black boy?

7. Explain the main theme of the poem and say how far it reflects the poet’s idea.

8. What does God represent in this poem?

Further reference:

WILLIAM BLAKE 1757-1827 – L. R. CAPUANA

© L. R. Capuana

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