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Short poem

William Blake (1757-1827)

The Little Black Boy

              1My mother bore me in the southern wild,
              2And I am black, but O! my soul is white;
              3White as an angel is the English child,
              4But I am black, as if bereav'd of light.

              5My mother taught me underneath a tree,
              6And sitting down before the heat of day,
              7She took me on her lap and kissed me,
              8And pointing to the east, began to say:

              9"Look on the rising sun: there God does live,
            10And gives his light, and gives his heat away;
            11And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
            12Comfort in morning, joy in the noonday.

            13And we are put on earth a little space,
            14That we may learn to bear the beams of love;
            15And these black bodies and this sunburnt face
            16Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

            17For when our souls have learn'd the heat to bear,
            18The cloud will vanish; we shall hear his voice,
            19Saying: 'Come out from the grove, my love and care,
            20And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.' "

            21Thus did my mother say, and kissed me;
            22And thus I say to little English boy,
            23When I from black and he from white cloud free,
            24And round the tent of God like lambs we joy,

            25I'll shade him from the heat, till he can bear
            26To lean in joy upon our father's knee;
            27And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,
            28And be like him, and he will then love me.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: William Blake, Songs of Innocence (1789). Blake's Illuminated Books, ed. David Bindman (Princeton, NJ: William Blake Trust; London: Tate Gallery, 1991-). See Vol. 2. PR 4142 B46 1991 ROBA.
First publication date: 1789
RPO poem editor: Northrop Frye
RP edition: 3RP 2.280.
Recent editing: 4:2002/3/14

Rhyme: abab

Other poems by William Blake