"A Little Boy Lost" is a poem of the Songs of Experience series created in 1794 after the Songs of Innocence (1789) by the poet William Blake. The poem focuses on the theme of religious persecution, and the corrupt results of dogmatic Church teachings. As part of Songs of Experience, the poem has the wider context of exploring the suffering of innocent individuals, in this case a young boy, in a flawed and experienced society.
Analysis of Poem
In this poem, the titular boy is persecuted because he questions the religious teaching that one should love God more than anything else, as the boy loves nature and his family equally as much as God. The priest, embodying these Church teachings, hears the boy's questioning of doctrine, and is angered, punishing the boy by burning him at the stake, as a punishment for heresy. As the poem progresses, the father and family weep for the boy. The poem focuses on the corrupt punishment of the innocent by the dangerous teachings of the Church, and criticises the view held by Blake's society, that the Church was virtuous and good, when in fact it allowed exploitation and brutality.
When the poem was first published, critics thought it to be difficult. What makes the poem confusing is that the boy himself is baffled. A commentator thought the boy was trying to compare the divine of man to God and that persons could equally love as God loves us. The poems title hints at the focus, even symbolically. Blake wanted his poems to be written for the common man. The main point Blake was trying to make was that young innocence has a grasp on religion and its corruption in the poem and the real world and within this message everyone who thinks otherwise shall burn for it.
This poem is split up into six quatrains and all are in iambic tetrameter. The first two quatrains are about the little boy speaking of love and what he thinks religion should be. The next quatrain is about the priest hearing the boy question God and his faith and then makes the boy a tyrant to show the public his treason. As the poem moves the boys innocence dissipates. When you look at the photo above you can see there are two numbers one on the inside of the outline and one on the outside. The first number is the sequence of the songs of innocence and then the outer is the songs of Experience. A man who studies blakes shorter poems suggests that the reader does not understand the full meaning of stanza one until you read stanza two and when reading the second stanza the reader can take hold of what the child is trying to state, which is universal love and not self-love that he is being condemned for.