Songs of Innocence

The Chimney Sweeper

The Little Black Boy

When my mother died I was very young,

Any my father sold me while yet my tongue

Could scarcely cry "'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!"

So your chimneys I sweep, & in soot I sleep.

 

There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,

That curl'd like a lamb's back, was shav'd: so I said

"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare

You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair."

 

And so he was quiet, & every night,

As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight!

That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack,

Were all of them lock'd up in coffins of black.

 

And by came an Angel who had a bright key,

And he open'd the coffins & set them all free;

Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,

And wash in a river, and shine in the Sun.

 

Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,

They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind;

And the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,

He'd have God for his father, & never want joy.

 

And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark,

And got with our bags & our brushes to work.

Tho' the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm;

So if all do their duty they need not fear harm.

 

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 sunburnt 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,

 

I'll shade him from the heat, till he can bear

To lean in joy upon our father's knee;

And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,

And be like him, and he will then love me.

 

The Lamb

 

Infant Joy

Little Lamb, who made thee?

Dost thou know who made thee?

Gave thee life, & bid thee feed

By the stream & o'er the mead;

Gave thee clothing of delight;

Softest clothing, wooly, bright;

Gave thee such a tender voice,

Making all the vales rejoice?

Little Lamb, who made thee?

Dost thou know who made thee?

 

Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,

Little Lamb, I'll tell thee:

He is called by thy name,

For he calls himself a Lamb.

He is meek, & he is mild;

He became a little child.

I a child, & thou a lamb,

We are called by his name.

Little Lamb, God bless thee!

Little Lamb, God bless thee!

"I have no name;

I am but two days old."

What shall I call thee?

"I happy am,

Joy is my name."

Sweet joy befall thee!

 

Pretty joy!

Sweet joy but two days old,

Sweet joy I call thee:

Thou dost smile,

I sing the while,

Sweet joy befall thee!

 


From:

Frye, Northrop. Ed. Selected Poetry and Prose of Blake. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1953.