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Pastoral Life

Symbol Analysis

Many of the poems in the Songs of Innocence, including "The Lamb," contain pastoral imagery. "Pastoral" refers to the idealized lives of merry shepherds and shepherdesses who traipse through the countryside alongside their flocks. They are connected to the land and the seasons, unlike the city dwellers who appear more frequently in the Songs of Experience. Pastoral imagery is often highly formulaic, and once you've seen one fluffy sheep resting in the dappled shade of a tall oak, you've seen them all. This poem is no exception. Still, it's hard the resist the charms of a good gurgling brook or flower-strewn meadow.

  • Line 1: The lamb is a classic symbol of pastoral life. Before farmers started to fence in their livestock, they would hire shepherds to lead their herds from field to field to feast on herbs and grass. The speaker of this poem may be one such young shepherd.
  • Lines 3-4: These lines contain an implicit metaphor comparing God to a Great Big Shepherd. God is the one who gives sheep the desire to feed in the first place.
  • Line 8: The valleys or "vales" of the country landscape are personified as a joyful choir echoing the sound of the lamb.

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