Songs of Innocence
Plate 9, Copy Y
The Little Black Boy is presented in the voice of the black child. Perhaps we whites are now being sensitized to racial tensions from the perspective of non-dominant race. Each has been trained to see from his own point of view. The 'black cloud' and the 'white cloud' prevent both children from seeing each other as beloved children of God who have gifts for the other.
A beauty of poetry is that it is capable of speaking to different individuals in different ways, and to the same individual in different ways at different times. Today I am listening to The Little Black Boy by focusing on the 'black cloud' and the 'white cloud' from which the black child and white child must be set free.
Years ago the theologian Nels Ferre wrote a book titled The Sun and the Umbrella. Ferre based his book on Plato's myth of the cave in which mankind's perception of reality came from seeing only shadows, not from the objects which cast the shadows. In Ferre's myth mankind was released from the cave so that he could see reality directly. But Ferre postulated the the direct vision was too bright for those who were exposed to it. Rather than return to the cave, some constructed Umbrellas to protect themselves from the intensity of naked truth.
I am becoming aware that 'we backs' and 'we whites' voluntarily live within clouds which shield us from the truth of a fuller knowledge of our brotherhood. We construct fantasies based on false conceptions, on self interest, on fears, and on historical divisions. Blake's poem indicates that breaking down the barriers to love is not painless. But if we are to 'bear the beams of love,' each must free himself from the cloud which shields him as does Ferre's umbrella. It is from the intensity of experiencing The Divine Vision that we try to escape.
Songs of Innocence, Plate 9, (E 9) "The Little Black Boy. My mother bore me in the southern wild, And I am black, but O! my soul is white; White as an angel is the English child: But I am black as if bereav'd of light. 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 And gives his light, and gives his heat away. And flowers and trees and beasts and men recieve Comfort in morning joy in the noon day. And we are put on earth a little space, That we may learn to bear the beams of love, And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove. SONGS 10 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. Thus did my mother say and kissed 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: Ill shade him from the heat till he can bear, To lean in joy upon our fathers knee. And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair, And be like him and he will then love me." Milton, Plate 32 , (E 131)
"Because we were combind in Freedom & holy Brotherhood While those combind by Satans Tyranny first in the blood of War And Sacrifice &, next, in Chains of imprisonment: are Shapeless Rocks Retaining only Satans Mathematic Holiness, Length: Bredth & Highth Calling the Human Imagination: which is the Divine Vision & Fruition In which Man liveth eternally: madness & blasphemy, against Its own Qualities, which are Servants of Humanity, not Gods or Lords."
Jerusalem, Plate 27, (E 173)
"The Divine Vision still was seen Still was the Human Form, Divine Weeping in weak & mortal clay O Jesus still the Form was thine. And thine the Human Face & thine The Human Hands & Feet & Breath Entering thro' the Gates of Birth And passing thro' the Gates of Death"
From an address by Thorwald W. Bender
FERRE'S CHRISTOLOGY: "Christ in You the Hope of Glory"
"The following quotations from The Sun and the Umbrella voices his concern:
'Unfortunately , the face of God has been hid under
Christian Umbrellas. The power of the Sun seldom falls
directly on the worshippers. The healing rays of the Sun
are deflected, thrown back and absorbed by the Umbrellas
under which the Gospel of God as Love is proclaimed.
Even Christian theology can be an effective Umbrella
against the full light of the Sun. Much of the formulation of
the Christian faith is made out of a closely woven fabric
under which alone the early disciples dared to leave the
House of Legality. Can we now sift, in some way, what is
Light from what is Umbrella? The task has to be done.'"