'The Little Black Boy' by William Blake
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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 receive
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.
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.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Little Black Boy: A Masterpiece of William Blake's Poetry
The Little Black Boy by William Blake is a poem that has touched the hearts of readers for centuries. It was first published in 1789, during the height of the slave trade in Britain, and has since been acclaimed as a masterpiece of literature. The poem is a poignant commentary on racism, prejudice, and the power of love and faith to transcend these barriers. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, imagery, and symbolism of The Little Black Boy, and how they contribute to the poem's meaning and impact.
At its core, The Little Black Boy is a poem about race and identity. The speaker is a young black boy who longs to be white so he can be closer to God. He believes that his black skin is a burden that separates him from the divine, and that only by becoming "white as an angel" can he achieve true spiritual enlightenment. This desire is shaped by the cultural and social context of Blake's time, where black people were often seen as inferior and were subjected to discrimination and violence.
However, the poem goes beyond a simple commentary on racism. It also explores the nature of love, forgiveness, and redemption. The little black boy's mother tells him that "every black'ning soul shall shine as a star," and that God loves all his children equally, regardless of their race or skin color. This message of universal love and acceptance is central to Blake's philosophy, which emphasizes the importance of imagination and spiritual vision over materialistic concerns.
The Little Black Boy is full of vivid and powerful imagery that captures the imagination of the reader. The opening lines describe the sun as a "fiery globe" that shines down on the earth, highlighting the contrast between the lightness of the sun and the darkness of the boy's skin. The boy is then compared to a "little black boy" who is "like a blackberry" in a "hedgerow" – a striking image that creates a sense of isolation and vulnerability.
The poem also uses symbolism to convey its meaning. The white boy is compared to an angel, representing purity, innocence, and holiness. The black boy, on the other hand, is compared to a "cloud" that obscures the sun, representing the darkness and ignorance that separate him from God. This contrast between light and darkness, white and black, is a recurring theme throughout the poem.
Structure and Language
The Little Black Boy is written in the form of a dialogue between the little black boy and his mother. The mother's voice is represented in italics, while the boy's voice is in regular text. This structure creates a sense of intimacy and emotional depth, as we are privy to the boy's innermost thoughts and feelings.
Blake's use of language in the poem is also noteworthy. The poem is written in simple and straightforward language, making it accessible to readers of all ages and backgrounds. However, the simplicity of the language belies the complexity of the themes and ideas it conveys. Blake uses poetic devices such as alliteration, repetition, and imagery to create a lyrical and evocative tone.
The Little Black Boy has been interpreted in many different ways since its publication. Some critics see it as a powerful critique of slavery and racism, highlighting the dehumanizing effects of these systems on people of color. Others view it as a more spiritual work, celebrating the power of love and forgiveness to overcome prejudice and hatred.
One interpretation of the poem is that it represents the struggle for self-acceptance and self-love in the face of societal discrimination. The little black boy's desire to be white is a reflection of the internalized racism that many people of color experience, where they come to see themselves as inferior to white people. The mother's message of universal love and acceptance is a call to resist this internalized racism and embrace one's own identity and worth.
Another interpretation is that the poem is a metaphor for the Christian message of redemption and salvation. The little black boy's journey towards "white" represents the process of spiritual purification and enlightenment, where one sheds the darkness of sin and ignorance and becomes "white as an angel." The mother's message of universal love is a reflection of God's love for all his children, regardless of their race or skin color.
In conclusion, The Little Black Boy by William Blake is a masterpiece of poetry that has stood the test of time. It is a powerful commentary on racism, identity, and the power of love and faith to overcome these barriers. The poem's themes, imagery, and symbolism have resonated with readers for centuries and continue to be relevant today. The poem's message of universal love and acceptance is a call to embrace our diversity and celebrate the beauty of our differences.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Little Black Boy by William Blake is a classic poem that has been studied and analyzed by scholars for centuries. This poem is a beautiful and powerful piece of literature that explores themes of race, identity, and spirituality. In this article, we will take a closer look at The Little Black Boy and analyze its meaning and significance.
The poem begins with a little black boy who is speaking to a white boy. The little black boy tells the white boy that his skin is black, but his soul is white. He explains that his mother taught him that his soul is from a place where the sun never sets and that his body is just a temporary vessel. The little black boy then goes on to say that when he dies, he will go to heaven and become a white boy like the one he is speaking to.
This opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem. It establishes the idea that race is not a defining characteristic of a person's identity. The little black boy's soul is white, which means that his true identity is not determined by the color of his skin. This idea challenges the societal norms of the time, which placed a great deal of importance on race and skin color.
The second stanza of the poem introduces the theme of slavery. The little black boy tells the white boy that his mother is a slave and that he is also a slave. He explains that even though he is a slave, he is still happy because he knows that his soul is free. This stanza is significant because it highlights the injustice of slavery and the resilience of those who were enslaved. The little black boy's happiness in the face of such oppression is a testament to the strength of the human spirit.
The third stanza of the poem introduces the theme of Christianity. The little black boy tells the white boy that Jesus loves him and that he will be with Jesus in heaven. He explains that Jesus was once a little black boy like him and that he understands the struggles that black people face. This stanza is significant because it shows how Christianity was used as a tool to justify slavery. The idea that Jesus was once a little black boy like the protagonist of the poem was used to justify the enslavement of black people.
The fourth stanza of the poem is a conversation between the little black boy and his mother. The mother tells her son that he must love and serve white people because they are closer to God. She explains that black people are like the sun, which is closer to the earth, while white people are like the sun, which is farther away. This stanza is significant because it shows how the idea of white supremacy was ingrained in the minds of black people. The mother's words are a reflection of the societal norms of the time, which placed white people at the top of the social hierarchy.
The fifth stanza of the poem is a conversation between the little black boy and the white boy. The white boy tells the little black boy that he wishes he could be as happy as he is. The little black boy responds by saying that the white boy can be happy if he loves and serves God. This stanza is significant because it shows how the little black boy is able to see beyond race and recognize the importance of spirituality. He is able to offer the white boy a path to happiness that is not based on material possessions or societal status.
The final stanza of the poem is a conversation between the little black boy and the angel. The angel tells the little black boy that he is loved by God and that he will be with Jesus in heaven. The angel then takes the little black boy's hand and leads him to heaven. This stanza is significant because it shows how the little black boy's faith has been rewarded. He is able to transcend the limitations of his physical body and join Jesus in heaven.
In conclusion, The Little Black Boy by William Blake is a powerful poem that explores themes of race, identity, and spirituality. The poem challenges the societal norms of the time and offers a message of hope and resilience in the face of oppression. The little black boy's faith and spirituality are a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of love. This poem is a timeless piece of literature that continues to inspire and challenge readers today.
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