Thursday, April 07, 2011


Genesis 22
[1] And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
[2] And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
[3] And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
[4] Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
[5] And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you,
[6] And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
[7] And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
[8] And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
[9] And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.
[10] And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
[11] And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
[12] And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
[13] And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

In Songs of Innocence Blake consistently uses the lamb as a symbol for the state of innocence. The lamb is cheerful, untroubled, well provided for, a source of comfort and joy. But the lamb, so gentle and innocent, implies a darker side. The lamb is typically the victim in the practice of sacrifice. Old Testament religious practice was built around the sacrifice of innocent victims to appease a demanding God. Abraham had been willing to sacrifice his son Isaac in response to God's command. The sacrifice of the innocent child was not required; a ram was substituted as an offering. The child who survived became Israel the father of a nation who continued to practice sacrifice. Later in Old Testament history the release of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt depended on the sacrifice of lambs to identify the the sons who were to passed over by the Angel of Death.

When Blake uses the lamb as the symbol of innocence he is implying that the state of innocence is temporary. The lamb will not always be protected from harm. The innocents may become victims of circumstances which demand the sacrifice of the most helpless and harmless. The state of Innocence itself is the victim of the state of Experience which inevitably replaces it. Man is made for Joy and Woe. The lamb of innocence is the Joy which must be woven with the Woe of experience to travel safely through generation.

SONGS 4, (E 4)
"Pipe a song about a Lamb;
So I piped with merry chear,
Piper pipe that song again--
So I piped, he wept to hear."

SONGS 5, (E 5)
The Shepherd.
"For he hears the lambs innocent call,
And he hears the ewes tender reply,
He is watchful while they are in peace,
For they know when their Shepherd is nigh."

SONGS 8, (E 8)
The Lamb
"Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & 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

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 & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee."

SONGS 10, (E 9)
The Little Black Boy.
"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,
And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice."

SONGS 12, (E 12)
The Chimney Sweeper
"Theres little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head
That curl'd like a lambs back, was shav'd, so I said.
Hush Tom never mind it, for when your head's bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair."

SONGS 19, (E 19)
"O what a multitude they seemd these flowers of London town
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own
The hum of multitudes was there but multitudes of lambs
Thousands of little boys & girls raising their innocent hands"

SONGS 20, (E 20)
"Farewell green fields and happy groves,
Where flocks have took delight;
Where lambs have nibbled, silent moves
The feet of angels bright;
Unseen they pour blessing,
And joy without ceasing,"
[Lion speaking]
"And now beside thee bleating lamb,
I can lie down and sleep;
Or think on him who bore thy name,
Graze after thee and weep.
For wash'd in lifes river,
My bright mane for ever,
Shall shine like the gold,
As I guard o'er the fold."

SONGS 23, (E 15)
"Little Girl
Little Lamb
Here I am,
Come and lick
My white neck.
Let me pull
Your soft Wool.
Let me kiss
Your soft face.
Merrily Merrily we welcome in the Year"

The Tyger.
"Did he who made the Lamb make thee?"

The lamb is rarely used in the later poetry in the same sense as it is used in Songs of Innocence. One exception occurs in the Four Zoas as Luvah speaks of Vala:

Four Zoas, PAGE 27, (E 317)
"And I commanded the Great deep to hide her in his hand
Till she became a little weeping Infant a span long
I carried her in my bosom as a man carries a lamb
I loved her I gave her all my soul & my delight"

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