“The Little Black Boy” by William Blake

blakeThe poem under analysis is taken from a compilation of works by William Blake—Songs of Innocence and Experience, and is called The Little Black Boy. William Blake was a British poet and painter. Most of his works belong to the literary stream of Romanticism. They do not only embrace the characteristic features of this age, but also have certain deviations from the main literary collective and its norms, which add a special flavor to William Blake’s poetry. The poet employs a wide usage of metaphors, similes, personification and other poetic devices, which make his works colorful and engaging.

With regard to The Little Black Boy, this poem belongs to the genre of lyric poetry and depicts the social issues that existed at the time of its creation. First of all, the author hints that racial discrimination was present in the United Kingdom’s society and this problem is still real. Therefore, it affects a modern-day person when they read the poem. Moreover, the poem highlights the concept of equality among all people. The author strives to deliver the message that there should be no discrimination of any kind against those living in the same country, or generally, on the same planet.

With reference to the poem’s imagery, the devices present in this literary work mostly appeal to the reader’s visual and tactile senses. The black and white colors used in the descriptions serve not only to differentiate the races, but also to impact the child’s understanding of good and bad. For example, the line, “And I am black, but Oh! my soul is white,” shows us a great degree of the boy’s awareness and will to show his kindness and knowledge. The little child stands here for the whole nation, being vulnerable under the rule of those who are not tolerant of people who simply have a different appearance. The slant of the poem is quite nostalgic and absorbing. It gives the reader a chance to mull over the fact of the boy’s self-perception and the effect the society has on racial minorities.

Blake employs a great variety of metaphors. For instance, in the line “Look on the rising sun: there God does live and gives his light, and gives his heat away.” God is compared to the sun, a phenomena that provides people with light, warmth and hope. Moreover, light is a conceptual metaphor for knowledge which lies in the human mind. Therefore, the image of the boy’s sun-burnt face is in fact a sign of his desire to be educated and become a thinking being. The reason for that also lies in the known fact that at the time, when the poem was created, Africans living in Britain and in the US were deprived of the opportunity to receive appropriate education as a result of racial segregation. There were certain colleges, which only Caucasian people were allowed to enter. This dreadful reality definitely affected future life opportunities of Africans living in the US and Britain. Another metaphor is in the line: “And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face are but a cloud, and like a shady grove.” Africans are compared to the cloud; the white men presumed that their abilities were not equal; that the blacks cannot gain as much knowledge and experience as the whites.

I am inclined to believe that the issue depicted in the poem still exists in present day English society and should be resolved by the teaching of common acceptance of those who are different. The message of the poem is to treat everyone as you would yourself, whether this person appears to be of a different race, status, gender or otherwise. In my view, William Blake was quite successful in bringing up such ideas, and due to his ability to affect the human senses and raise disputable topics, even modern society may benefit from it and come up with certain solutions to the problems he presented. Therefore, the poetry of such talented authors should be cherished and implemented in an obligatory literature course.


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