The Little Black Boy

By William Blake 1757–1827 William Blake
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 noonday.

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.

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Poet William Blake 1757–1827

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Religion, Living, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Youth, Relationships, Class, Christianity, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Metaphor, Rhymed Stanza, Simile

 William  Blake

Biography

In his Life of William Blake (1863) Alexander Gilchrist warned his readers that Blake "neither wrote nor drew for the many, hardly for work'y-day men at all, rather for children and angels; himself 'a divine child,' whose playthings were sun, moon, and stars, the heavens and the earth." Yet Blake himself believed that his writings were of national importance and that they could be understood by a majority of men. Far from being . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Religion, Living, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Youth, Relationships, Class, Christianity, God & the Divine

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Poetic Terms Metaphor, Rhymed Stanza, Simile

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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