William Blake’s ‘Girls’
Published 13 Jun 2017
William Blake’s poems Little Girl Lost and Little Girl Found read as one poem in an allegorical fashion. The parable, as Blake often writes with biblical themes, is about a child losing their way, coupled with the fear of the parent and the eventual finding of the child, not by the parents but by God, metaphorically appearing as a lion or tiger. As one poem is found in Songs of Innocence (Little Girl Lost) and the other poem appearing in Songs of Experience (Little Girl Found) it may be surmised that some earthly and harrowing event occurred in which separated these two poems into these different categories or songs, but that there exists a unification of the tale in the Song of Experience since it is with innocence that the little girl is lost.
Little Girl Lost begins with a couplet in which Blake rhymes ‘age’ and ‘page’ and ‘time’ with ‘crime’ (Blake); albeit these are very simple rhymes Blake used them purposefully to elaborate on the concept of innocence and to portray in his ‘songs’ something childlike in the narrative. Blake uses simple rhymes in all of his poems in Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. The poem Little Girl Lost focuses on the parable of a little girl lost. The poem begins as a type of parable in which Blake instructs the reader by stating “Children of the future age” which is his way of referencing through the poem to the reader or ‘children’, and thus giving them instructions about living and life.
Blake further exemplifies how life was “In the age of gold” (Blake) which would be equivalent to Once upon a time since the fairy tale image is very close to Blake’s writing style although his poems are seemingly more urgent in their message. The story then progresses to give the reader a scene setting where the atmosphere is of warm temperament or ‘free from the winter’s cold’ (Blake) and it speaks of youth, innocence, holiness and being naked. This resembles in some degrees the Garden of Eden. This conjecture can be made since most of Blake’s poems are referencing points which direct the reader’s attention to scenes from the Old Testament.
This Garden of Eden parable seems completely innocent in its forthcoming stage of youth and sunshine. Blake speaks about a ‘youthful pair’ which could be Adam and Eve symbolically speaking which carry over to the next poem Little Girl Found in which God actually finds the little girl and the parents and brings them back together in a den of tigers, which could only mean heaven since the poems jointly speak of “Waves o’er heaven’s deep” (Blake) and then “lonely den”(Blake).
Blake introduces two lovers meeting in a ‘garden bright'(Blake) —again the Eden imagery—and Blake states that the maiden ‘forgets her fear’ which could mean that she succumbs to the other lover, but in context with Adam and Eve it could mean she finds experience and thus her innocence is lost which would better explain the following stanzas.
The maiden, after having experienced the lover goes to her ‘father white’ which in keeping with the concept of the parable is God since God is typically imaged in a white gown with surrounding light. The maiden, upon seeing this image begins to shake which means that she is consciously aware of her actions and realizes that kissing her lover and gaining experience (albeit, having sex) makes her standing before God filled with sin and thus ‘all her tender limbs with terror shook’. The innocent would not shake with terror before God because they would not know what terror was; it is with the gaining of experience that the little girl shook in front of God.
Following this, the next stanza reads in the voice of God pleading with the little girl to speak. Blake was also instructing in this poem to parents. God as the father figure is thwarted when the girl gains experience and is lost and chastises himself for his ‘dismal care’ (Blake) which states to the readers that parents should not neglect nor lose their children for fear of what may happen to them.
Following this Little Girl Found exemplifies the distraught nature of the parents who find that their child is missing. This song also begins with a rhyming couplet. The journey of the parent’s is very consciously written with the incorporation of nature. Like its predecessor, this poem begins with very exact images of nature; in juxtaposition to the garden image, this poem begins with a desert. This is Blake’s clever way of emphasizing the plush and verdant garden and the analogy of this with innocence to the desert scenes that are dry and lacking life which emphasizes the parent’s sorrow.
The parents travel for seven days and nights. In terms of a parable this is reminiscent of Noah’s Ark and the traveling on faith alone for forty days and nights. The parents’ way is a pathless wandering which is typical of Blake to have the parents traveling in the wild without direction since Blake wants to reiterate the power of God and that it is only through God that a person may find their way; this was also true for the little girl who had lost her way but was found by God.
Blake ‘paints’ the parents in a very devastating manner; they are weak, pale, famished, weeping and all together trembling for bodily needs and comforts but mostly to find their daughter. The mother figure cannot bear to move any longer not only due to physical duress but also due to ‘woe’ (Blake). Thus, the father figure, her husband has to bear her further in order to find their daughter.
It is at this point in the journey or search that the parents come across a lion. They could not go back nor could they progress, as Blake states, “Soon his heavy man Bore them to the ground, Then he stalked around” (Blake).
It is as though the lion is sizing them up, judging them and their power to continue the journey. As in the previous poem, it is with the appearance of the lion or the father or God that the individuals of each poem find their path.
The parents at first fear the lion until he ‘licks their hands’ (Blake) and then they realize that they are safe and in a way, they are found. Upon gazing at the lion the parents are surprised that it transforms or in biblical terms it transubstantiates into a ‘spirit armed in gold’ (Blake) and ‘on his head a crown’ (Blake) which is Blake’s way of giving the audience a very full image without fear of misinterpretation. Upon the appearance of this golden entity any fear, or woe that the parents had previously has disappeared and in its place is hope which was not there prior to the appearance of the lion. Thus, God gives hope where once there was none, is how the parable would read.
This entity, or God, tells the parents to ‘Follow me’ (Blake) and they discover that God has in turn found their little girl. She resides in his ‘palace’ sleeping. Blake describes the following scene is a very keen observation in relaying a parable; he juxtaposes this girl sleeping next to wild tigers. This is to emphasize that in the presence of God such physical dangers are unrealistic since with God nothing can harm a person. Thus, as the parents approach the girl and as the story states they dwell in the ‘lonely dell’ (Blake) but alongside these wild creatures. The parents as well as the girl do not ‘fear the wolvish howl Nor the lion’s growl’ (Blake) because they are in the presence of God.
These poems jointly represent how it is only through the power of God that hope can be found; without God the pathway and journey is rugged and overgrown and people get lost, but through God the journey is able to be traversed. Thus, the Little Girl Lost and the Little Girl Found have biblical elements in both the allegory of the tiger as God and the allegory of being lost then found through God.
- Blake, W. Little Girl Lost. Online. Retrieved 10 February 2008: http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/blake/little_girl_lost.html
- Blake, W. Little Girl Found. Online. Retrieved 10 February 2008: https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/blake/little_girl_found.html