Study Guide

The Lamb Quotes

  • Innocence

    Little Lamb who made thee
    Dost thou know who made thee (lines 1-2)

    The lamb is innocent of the knowledge of its creator. Does the lamb really need to know who its creator is? Do we? When children begin to ask this question to their parents, it's a sign of their growing experience and exposure to culture.

    Gave thee clothing of delight,
    Softest clothing wooly bright; (lines 5-6)

    Clothing? It's a small but telling detail. In the Christian Bible, Adam and Eve did not need clothing until they encountered the shame of sin. Clothing, then, is associated with experience, not innocence. That the child thinks of the lamb as wearing clothes rather than running around as blissfully naked shows that the culture bug has already bit him.

    He is called by thy name,
    For he calls himself a Lamb: (lines 13-14)

    In the Biblical Book of Genesis, Adam gives names to all the birds and the beasts, including, we assume, lambs. Adam's superior relation to nature is reflected in the child's teacher-like tone toward the lamb.

    He is meek & he is mild,
    He became a little child: (lines 15-16)

    The child doesn't mention any of the important events from the life of Christ, like his teachings, his death, and his struggles against the local religious orthodoxy. Instead, he naively focuses on the similarities between Jesus and himself: they were both kids!

  • Man and the Natural World

    Little Lamb who made thee (line 1)

    During the 18th and 19th centuries, the development of science led many philosophers to look for a "design" in the universe. From this perspective, people come to know God by knowing his creation, instead of the other way around.

    Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
    By the stream & o'er the mead; (lines 3-4)

    Like a kid with a wind-up toy, God gave creatures the means to live and then set them loose to roam around, eating to their heart's content. But the innocent perspective doesn't mention the chaotic, amoral, dog-eat-dog character of nature.

    Softest clothing wooly bright (line 6)

    The speaker thinks of the lamb not as it relates to nature, but as it relates to human society and its needs. He regards the lamb's wool as "clothing," like a really nice sweater.

    Gave thee such a tender voice,
    Making all the vales rejoice (lines 7-8)

    Throughout the poem, Blake personifies nature. The lamb has a "tender voice" like a singer, and the echoing valleys are like a church choir expressing its joy.

  • Religion

    Dost thou know who made thee (line 2)

    The poem makes God sound kind of like an auto engineer deciding what bells and whistles to put on the latest model. "Tender voice? Check. Soft fur? Check. Fire-breathing capabilities? Hm. Maybe not." The speaker sounds very confident in God's engineering abilities, but the flip side of judging God by his creation is that you have to ask the same questions about ferocious animals, too. Thus Blake's poem "The Tyger," from the Songs of Experience, asks, "Did he who made the Lamb make thee?" You could think of the speaker of "The Tyger" as the kid from "The Lamb," now grown-up and having to deal with some tough questions about whether the creator was so benevolent after all.

    He is called by thy name,
    For he calls himself a Lamb (lines 13-14)

    If you read the Old Testament of the Bible, you'll find a lot of examples of the sacrifice of lambs, rams, and other animals that were valuable to humans. People sacrificed animals in order to gain forgiveness from God. In the New Testament, Jesus marks a revolutionary shift: God offers his son as a symbolic "lamb" on behalf of humanity. Although according to the older tradition humans should have made the sacrifice, God makes it for humans. Is the speaker aware of this significance of the lamb? In John 1:29, Jesus is called "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world."

    He is meek & he is mild,
    He became a little child: (lines 15-16)

    In the Christian tradition, Jesus Christ shares the traits of the lamb, especially gentleness and submissiveness ("meek & mild"). These are also traits we ascribe to little children. Are there other ways to view Christ?

    I a child & thou a lamb,
    We are called by his name. (lines 17-18)

    This might be the most complicated line in this straightforward poem. Here, people are like lambs being led by the "shepherd" Jesus, and lambs are like children of God, since they are part of His creation. And Jesus is both a child – the Son of God – and a sacrificial lamb. In this sense, the lamb and the child share Christ's "name."

    Little Lamb God bless thee
    Little Lamb God bless thee (lines 19-20)

    The poem ends on a quiet note, as the child concludes his religious lesson with a blessing. What is the effect of repeating this blessing twice?

  • Youth

    Little Lamb who made thee
    Dost thou know who made thee (lines 1-2)

    The speaker – himself a child – calls the lamb "little" as if it were a younger child or a pet. In the first line, he sounds like a curious boy marveling at nature, but in the second, he sounds more like a teacher.

    Gave thee such a tender voice (line 7)

    Just wait until that lamb hits puberty. Seriously, the lamb is humanized a lot like a pre-pubescent boy.

    He became a little child: (line 16)

    Youth is one of the links between Jesus, the lamb, and the child. Not all of the Songs of Innocence tie youth and innocence together so closely, but this one does.

    I a child & thou a lamb,
    We are called by his name. (lines 17-18)

    In Christian thought, even adults are "children" of God. The poem plays with the literal and symbolic meanings of both "child" and "lamb."