The Lamb Summary
To make this poem a little more fun, let's imagine it from the lamb's perspective. There we are, munching on some grass in a beautiful English valley, when suddenly some little rug-rat kid comes running up for a chat. He asks if we know who made us, to which our answer is, "(Munch, munch) This grass is delicious!"
He asks if we know who gave us life and made us eat this sweet, sweet grass as we roam through fields and next to streams. He asks if we know who gave us our "clothing wooly bright" (6) and our pleasant voices.
Then he says he's going to tell us who made him. He says our creator is also called a "Lamb" because he was so "meek" and "mild" (15). Despite being a lamb, this creator also "became a little child" (16).
Finally, he blesses us twice in the name of God and runs away.
Little lamb, who made thee?
- The speaker addresses the lamb and asks, "Who made thee?"
- The speaker is not someone who takes things as they are. He wants to know where they come from. He sounds genuinely curious, but he also places himself above the lamb by calling it "little."
Does thou know who made thee,
- The speaker repeats his question in a slightly different way. He's all about using those old-sounding English words like "dost" and "thee."
- Unlike in line 1, where the speaker seems curious, here he sounds like he knows the answer to the question – "Who made thee?" – and is quizzing the lamb. We get the sense that we're going to learn the answer before too long.
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'er the mead;
- These lines extend the question of "Who?"
- The speaker wants to know who gave the lamb life and that voracious appetite for greenery that leads it to travel by streams and over meadows, or "mead." Put this way, the lamb sounds kind of like a zombie. Instead of busting through windows and shouting, "Braiiins!", it runs through flowery fields and bleats, "Graaaass!"
- In other words, the lamb didn't create its own desires and appetites. They come from a higher power.
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
- The lamb has a creator who gave it "clothing of delight," which sounds like the next high-end fashion line. This clothing is advertised as "the softest" and "wooly bright."
- The speaker doesn't seem to mind the redundancy of describing lamb's wool as "wooly." That's like calling someone's hair "hairy." Not too helpful.
- The wool looks "bright" because it gleams in the sun.
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
- Line 7 is the third in this stanza to begin with the word "Gave."
- This is one lucky little lamb. As if its fancy clothing weren't enough, it also has a voice so "tender" that it makes the valleys happy as its baa-ing echoes through them.
- A "vale" is just a word for valley. When the lamb speaks, the valleys seem to reply with the same joyful voice.
Little lamb, who made thee?
Does thou know who made thee?
- In the words of Mr. Justin Timberlake, "Bring it to the chorus!"
- That's right, you might be shocked to learn, but the "Songs of Innocence" are actually structured like…songs! These lines repeat word for word the first two lines of the poem. Everybody sing along now.
Little lamb, I'll tell thee;
Little lamb, I'll tell thee:
- Having just rhymed the one-syllable "thee" with, um, "thee," Blake doubles down and does it again.
- The speaker announces that he will tell the lamb who its creator is.
- For those of you keeping track at home, here's the box score for lines 9-12: "Little Lamb": 3, "thee": 4. "Thee" takes the lead!
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
- Having promised to say outright who the lamb's creator is, the speaker now starts talking in riddles that avoid a clear answer.
- The creator, he says, shares the same name as the lamb.
- And what is the lamb's name? In fact, the lamb's name is "Lamb," and so is the creator's.
He is meek, and He is mild,
He became a little child.
- OK, we can put it off no longer: the Lamb is a symbol for Jesus Christ. In John 29 of the Bible, Jesus is called "The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." What this poem about innocence doesn't mention is that Christ is a like a lamb because lambs get sacrificed. Gulp.
- In the English Christian tradition, Jesus has been called "meek" and "mild" for the way he submitted to God's will and for his gentle treatment of sinful humans. He "became a little child" when he was born into the world (which Christians celebrate on Christmas).
- Blake's poem seems to borrow from the words of Englishman Charles Wesley, who published a hymn called "Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild" in 1742. Charles's brother, John Wesley, founded the Methodist Church. The hymn includes the line, "Lamb of God, I look to Thee." If you read the whole thing (read it here), you'll see just how much Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience resemble church songs.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
- The speaker reveals himself to be a child.
- And the lamb…is still a lamb.
- In fact, all the characters in this poem can be viewed as lambs: child, real lamb, and Jesus. They can also be seen as children – children of God. Got that?
Little lamb, God bless thee!
Little lamb, God bless thee!
- In these lines, we imagine the child patting the lamb on the head and running off to find some new adventure.
- He seems to have been instructing the lovable farm animal on the basics of the Christian religion.
- He blesses the lamb twice, completing the pattern in which the lamb is addressed as "thee" two times at the beginning and end of each stanza.