"The Lamb"In 1928, Joseph A. Wicksteed proposed that Blake's "lyrical gem," "The Lamb," lacks any "darkly buried meaning" but that it does illustrate Blake's ideas about the deeply meaningful process of naming.
Thirty-one years later, Robert F. Gleckner proposed that the poem is indeed complex in its expression of Blake's "threefold vision of innocence" embodied in the child, the lamb, and Christ. Gleckner also points out thematic connections between "Spring" and "The Lamb" citing the similarities between the birds and lamb in the former and the lamb in the latter.
However, Hazard Adams' 1963 discussion of "The Lamb" as a conventional, straightforward rendering of the concept of God as an omnipresent entity infused in every being again suggests Wicksteed's original notion of the poem's lack of complexity.
Nevertheless, E.D. Hirsch's explication the following year in which he compares the speaker in "The Lamb" to the speakers in "Infant Joy" and "Nurse's Song" suggests a structural complexity in which the voice of the speaker is shaped by various formal elements.
Jean H. Hagstrum's 1965 reading--an exploration of Blake's notion of Christianity in which innocence, paired with wrath, or "ethical action," is the ideal--reinforces this idea of the poems complexity. Hagstrum suggests that "he who made the Lamb" did indeed also make the Tyger.
John Holloway's reading of the poem (1968) reinforces the idea of the poem's formal complexity, arguing that the poem's structure itself is a clear signifier of the "world of harmony" in which oneness is created through duplication: "Little Lamb God Bless thee / Little Lamb God Bless thee."
Geoffrey Keynes offers a brief explication (1967) of the illustration in which he interprets the young trees as framing the scene and enclosing it from the world of experience. Eben Bass also analyzes the illustration (1970) noting the symbolic significance of its major lines of motion.
Although Harry Williams does not directly address "The Lamb," he discusses Blake's idea of the Lamb paired with the idea of the Tyger in a substantial discussion of "The Tyger" within the context of Blake's life's work (1972). Williams interprets the tyger as a creature that is "beyond good and evil" and that can be regenerated through mutual forgiveness with its enemy-lamb.
D.G. Gillham also discusses "The Lamb" in conjunction with "The Tyger" analyzing the nature of the questions asked in both poems and pointing out the differences as well as the similarities in the experienced, ostensible "adult" mind of the speaker in "The Tyger" and the incomplete, ostensibly "childish" mind of the speaker in "The Lamb" (1973).
Jim S. Borck addresses a lingering question about Blake's punctuation of "The Lamb" (1974). Borck discusses the emendation of punctuation by editors Alexander Gilchrist, Geoffrey Keynes and D.E. Erdman in their attempts to correct what they considered to be disruptive irregularities. Through a thorough technical examination of the language of the poem and its punctuation, Borck argues that the seemingly arbitrary--and at times, seemingly chaotic--punctuation is actually carefully crafted to reflect "a sense of purity and unity" in the speaker.
Leslie and Susan Hawk Brisman Brisman discuss the freedom of the innocent speaker to converse with an animal as a reflection of the reciprocal "I-Thou" relationship between God and man (1980).
Once again addressing the question of "The Lamb's" complexity (or lack thereof), Zachary Leader posits that because "The Lamb" is so simple and straightforward in its attempt to reinvent and "revivify" Christian symbols, critics can use it as a "justification for the interpretive risks" they make with the more complex poems and their accompanying illustrations (1981).
Heather Glen points out the echoes in "The Lamb" of Charles Wesley's hymn for children "Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild" (1983). Glen interprets the contrast between Blake's childlike, "unselfconscious repetitions" and Wesley's linear, rational structure" as Blake's conscious appropriation and modification of Wesley's hymn in order to refute its "demystification of the Incarnation."
Ronald Paulson also addresses Blake's interest in demystification of "the word" in a discussion of the Lamb (and by implication, "The Lamb") as it is complemented by "The Tyger." (Paulson discusses Blake's reaction to the rhetoric of the French Revolution, a process of renaming).
Terry Ford Sosnowski also analyzes "The Lamb" in conjunction with "The Tyger" (1984). Ford offers a speculative discussion of Blake's conscious and purposeful appropriation and modification of Old English metrical and formal conditions including the four-beat anapestic line divided evenly by caesura in "The Lamb" and "The Tyger."
Rodney M. Baine also offers an interpretation of the Lamb as its identity is defined by its relationship to other animals (1986). In an exploration of Blake's use of herbivorous animals throughout his work, Baine discusses sheep and goats as symbols of man's innocence and fallen nature, respectively (1986).
Glazer'sGlazer interpretation of "The Lamb" is dependent on its relationship to "The Little Black Boy" (1987). Glazer discusses the composite meaning of the two poems in one copy of Songs in which "The Lamb" immediately precedes "The Little Black Boy."
Once Again addressing the "seeming obviousness" of "The Lamb" and its subsequent lack of critical attention, Gleckner Gleckner and Greenburg offer a brief bibliography up to 1989.
David W. Lindsay also assumes the simplicity of "The Lamb" pointing out that the speaker can be clearly identified as a child based on the simple thought- processes and rhythms of the poem (1989).
In contrast, Alan Richardson's reading of the poem suggests its complexity (1989). Richardson discusses the politics of education in late-eighteenth-century England focusing on Blake's appropriation of the catechistic method in "The Lamb" to critique and subvert the hegemony this method of "education" perpetuates (1989).
Leslie Tannenbaum's reading also suggests the complexity of the poem as she discusses the use of "The Lamb" and "The Tyger" as tools for teaching Blake's interpretation of the Fall and the "return" to Eden (1989).
Works Cited Adams, Hazard. William Blake: A Reading of the Shorter Poems. Seattle: U Washington P, 1963. 229- 31.
Baine, Rodney M. Scattered Portions. Athens, GA: privately printed, 1986. 37-53.
Bass, Eben. "Innocence and Experience:The Thrust of Design."
Blake's Visionary Forms Dramatic. Eds. David V. Erdman and John E. Grant. New Haven: Princeton, 1970. 196-213.
Brisman, Susan Hawk and Leslie. "Prophecy and Illusion." Modern Critical Interpretations: Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 67-71.
Borck, Jim. S. "Blake's 'The Lamb': The Punctuation of Innocence." Tennessee Studies in Literature 19 (1974): 163-75.
Gillham, D.G. William Blake. Cambridge: UP, 1973. 6-10.
Glazer, Myra. "On the Dynamics of Blake's Composite Art" (1980). Modern Critical Interpretations: William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 85-100.
Gleckner, Robert F. and Mark L. Greenburg. Introduction: Teaching Blake's Songs. New York: MLA, 1989. 17.
Gleckner, Robert F. The Piper and the Bard: A Study of William Blake. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1959. 85-86, 97.
Glen, Heather. Vision and Disenchantment: Blake's Songs and Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads. Cambridge" UP, 1983. 187-99.
Hagstrum, Jean H. "'The Wrath of the Lamb': A Study of William Blake's Conversions." From Sensibility to Romanticism: Essays Presented to Frederick A. Pottle. Eds Frederick W. Hilled and Harold Bloom. New York: Oxford UP, 1965. 311-30.
Hirsch, E.D., Jr. Innocence and Experience: An Introduction to William Blake. Chicago, UP, 1964. 177-78.
Holloway, John. Blake: The Lyric Poet. London: Edward Arnold Ltd., 1968. 61.
Keynes, Geoffrey. Commentary. Songs of Innocence and Experience Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. By William Blake. 1789,1794. Oxford: UP, 1970. 134.
Lindsay, David W. Blake: Songs of Innocence and Experience. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1989. 31.
Leader, Zachary. Reading Blake's Songs. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981. 87-91.
Nurmi, Martin K. William Blake. London: Hutchinson, 1975. 62-3.
Paulson, Ronald. Representations of Revolution. New Haven: Yale UP, 1983. 88-110.
Richardson, Alan. "The Politics of Childhood: Wordsworth, Blake, and the Catechistic Method." ELH 56.4 (Winter 1989): 853-68.
Sosnowski, Terry Ford. "Meter and Form in Blake's 'The Lamb' and 'The Tyger'." Kwartalnik-- Neofilologiczny 31.4 (1984): 407-16.
Tannenbaum, Leslie. "Teaching Biblical Contexts of Songs." Gleckner and Greenburg. 99-103.
Williams, Harry. "The Tyger and the Lamb." Concerning Poetry 5 (1972): 49-56.
Wicksteed, Joseph A. Blake's Innocence and Experience: A Study of the Songs and Manuscripts "Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul". London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1928. 91-2.