William Blake’s works include many of which relate to the role and interest of many figures of children and caretakers who appear in Songs of Innocence and Experience. The poems I will be discussing in this thesis are, from the Songs of Innocence: “The Little Girl Lost,” “The Little Girl Found” and “The Chimney Sweeper.” All of which show caretakers in a good light. The other poems, from The Songs of Experience: “The Chimney Sweeper,” “NURSE’S Song” and “Infant Sorrow” all depict caretakers in a bad light.
The first poem I will discuss is from the Songs of Innocence, its title is “The Little Girl Lost.” This poem tells the story of a seven-year old child who becomes separated from her parents and is lost in a wild kingdom.
In the first stanza the author prophasizes the future, foretelling of a serious situation.William Blake then goes on in the poem to tell about how the young girls parents react to the new knowledge that their daughter is missing. The parents are fearful because they know the dangers of the jungle their daughter is lost in. The parents, caretakers, of the young girl can not conceive the possibility that the jungle may have a soft and caring side.
We then find out the age of young Lyca, “seven summers old.” At the age of seven, a young girl must be very scared alone in the wood with out her mother and father. William Blake also in this stanza tells how Lyca became lost in this wilderness. Lyca, being a young and playful girl had saw beautiful birds singing and had followed them into the jungle, enchanted by their song.
Lyca cannot go on. She is weary from walking and needs to lay down for a moments rest. Lyca lies under a tree, and begins to think about her parents whom she misses so much. She wonders if they are looking for her, and if they are worried about her. These thoughts make Lyca very sad for she loves her caretakers dearly. Lyca knows she needs rest if she wants to go on in her journey to find home. As she lies under the tree she has difficulty sleeping. She knows her mother and father are afraid for her in this wild jungle. She cannot rest knowing that her caretakers are upset.
In the next stanza we picture Lyca still continuing on her search for her home. We picture her eyes closing, much too tired to continue. Lyca has to rest. She lies down and closes her eyes as the daytime fades away and the moon arises over this frightful night. As Lyca lays sleeping the beasts of the jungle come from their caves and roam about in search of food. Instead of food, to their surprise they find Lyca. To the reader this is the point of climax. The reader is scared for Lyca. She is just an innocent child. The reader begins to fear for Lyca’s life, not realizing the beasts true intentions.
The lion is the first beast to spot Lyca sleeping. He begins to circle her, not quite sure of the situation put before him. We the reader have the natural instinct in us to believe that the lion is going to eat Lyca. We cannot conceive the notion that maybe the lion has other intentions as to what to do with young Lyca. The tygers and leopards begin to dance around the sleeping Lyca, while the lion is still accessing the situation. The reader is confused at this point, because it seems as though the natural thing for the lion to do would be to eat Lyca. When the lion seems as though he is not going to eat Lyca, the reader is enticed to read more.
In the next stanza the lion begins to lick Lyca’s body, and a softness emerges in his heart. This kindness surprises the reader. It is something we could not expect as a human being used to a violent world. The reader is shocked by this softness in the heart of a ferocious lion.
In the last stanza of the poem the mother lion undresses the sleeping girl, and carries her away to her cave. The lion takes on the role of the caretaker in this stanza by helping care and nurture for Lyca. The reader is surprised by the turn of events in this poem, for it seemed that Lyca was in trouble, and now Lyca has found a loving caretaker in what originally scared her.
This poem relates to Blake’s central theme of children and caretakers by showing that even normally vicious and dangerous animals can have compassion, and care for a young child who is battling for survival without the protection of a mother or a father. The lion becomes the child’s caretaker, and softness seems to envelope her as she relates to the child. A message is sent to the reader in this poem. A message of love that comes from a source other then a biological parent. The way the lion took Lyca under her care, is the way that every human being should treat one another. Blake tries to show in this poem how the most surprising person, or animal can make the most loving caretakers.
The next poem from The Songs of Innocence, “The Little Girl Found,” a sequel to “The Little Girl Lost,” is the story of a parents anguish over the loss of their daughter. It tells of their tireless journey in search of their daughter, Lyca, and the joy and gratitude in their hearts to find their daughter safe.
In the beginning of the poem, Lyca’s parents sad and fearful begin their journey in search of their daughter who is lost in what they believe to be the dangerous wilderness. They are scared to even think about what conditions their daughter may be in. They are her parents, and her caretakers, they feel that they are to blame for Lyca’s predicament.
The poem goes on to tell of the lengthiness of their journey, “Arm and arm seven days.” For a week her parents continued the search for their daughter, hardly able to speak from their unstoppable crying. Though they feared what may have happened to their daughter, through it they hold on to each other for support. They know they are good caretakers, and that they have to find their daughter and care for her.
The parents are sick with worry and hunger, and cry out in their pain. They wake up from their sleepless night and Lyca’s weary mother fears she cannot continue her search for her daughter. She fears there is no longer any hope of finding her, and begins to cry. Her husband embraces her and tries to comfort her, at which time the lion appears before them. Lyca’s parents know that to run would be futile, and they fear for their lives as the lion knocks them to the ground and begins to circle them. The lion feels that Lyca’s parents are there to harm Lyca. He does not know they are her true caretakers, and that they do no harm. The lion who had become Lyca’s caretaker was just doing his job by protecting Lyca.
The lion sniffs the terrified parents, and finds that they mean no harm. When he licks their hands their fears subside, and the parents realize that the lion does not intend to hurt them. When the parents look at the lion an aura seems to surround him, and they feel a hopefulness in their hearts that their daughter is safe. They view the lion as a kindly king and their fears were elevated. For the first time since their search began, they were positive about Lyca’s welfare. The lion comforts Lyca’s parent’s by telling them Lyca has been well taken care of and he promises to take them to her. This compassion the lion has for their daughter surprises and calms Lyca’s hysterical parents.
The parents follow the lion to her den where they find Lyca sleeping among the other wild animals. This picture does not frighten the parents, but rather comforts them with the feeling that their daughter was well taken care of. The parents are grateful to the lion for becoming the child’s caretaker in a time of need. William Blake ends this poem by telling the reader what they can expect Lyca and her parents situation to be like today. Lyca and her caretakers, both her parents and the mother lion, live among the “wild animals” which Lyca and her parents no longer fear.
In relation to William Blake’s central theme of children and caretakers this poem exhibits the perseverance of parents who fear their child is in danger. The parents who represent the caretakers, were willing to put themselves in danger and sacrifice their own life for the welfare and love of their child. William Blake also presents in this poem the symbolism of co-caretakers. Both the lion and the biological parents of Lyca are adequate caretakers to Lyca. Both will treat her with the love and care that she needs to survive in this world.
The next poem I will analyze is also from the Song of Innocence. Its title is “The Chimney Sweeper.” This poem is about a small child who loses his mother, his primary caretaker and is left with no one to care for him. He is doomed to a life of chimney sweeping but is able to overcome his plight by pleasant visions of the hereafter.
The beginning of this poem introduces to a small boy whose mother has died, and whose father has sold him into a life of chimney sweeping. As the reader, we realize that this young boy no longer has any caretakers, and therefore has no one to love and take care of him. We believe that this young boy is going to be doomed to a life of hard work and poverty.
We learn in the next stanza the young boy, Tom Dacre, begins his work as a chimney sweeper with his head shaved. We are told that his head is shaved so that the soot would not get into his white hair. This puts the idea into the readers head that the boy is innocent, white being a pure color, and does not deserve the life he leads. We also hear the voice of the narrator, that comforts Tom Dacre with words of kindness.
Tom goes to sleep and has a frightful dream that all of the chimney sweepers were lying in locked black coffins. His dream takes a turn, though, and an angel opens all the locked black coffins with a golden key, and all the chimney sweepers are set free. They are able to cleanse themselves in the river and play in the bright sun. The reader begins to feel hopeful at this point. The young boys are able to play again like young boys are supposed to. They are able to forget for a moment about their lives that are doomed with work and poverty.
Still dreaming and playing among the clouds Tom is told by the angel that if he is good, God will always take care of him. Tom then awakes from the dream, and though his situation has not changed, he still sweeps the chimneys. His outlook on life has changed and he knows that if he does what he is supposed to do he will be taken care of by God forever.
In this poem Tom Dacre’s primary caretaker is God. When his mother dies and he is abandoned by his father, the two caretakers, Tom is left alone and very frightened. After a dream he is confronted by the fact that God is his father and he no longer feels alone. Although he has been delegated the unpleasant task of chimney sweeping, he knows that if he does his job well and stays out of trouble