William Blake: A Little Girl Lost

Frantisek Kupka - The little girl with a ball (1908) - from Painting of the Day by Hugo Martel

František Kupka – The little girl with a ball (1908) – from Painting of the Day by Hugo Martel (www.astro.phy.ulaval.ca)

The visionary poet and painter William Blake (b. 28 November 1757, d. 12 August 1827) went largely unrecognised during his lifetime, but he is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. In the poem A Little Girl Lost, published in Songs of Experience (1794), he envisages a future where children and adolescents will freely enjoy nudity and love, and the religious condemnation of these pleasures will cause indignation. He would have been dismayed to notice that 220 years after publishing that poem, things have not much progressed in the Anglo-Saxon world.

A LITTLE GIRL LOST

Children of the future age,
Reading this indignant page,
Know that in a former time
Love, sweet love, was thought a crime.

In the age of gold,
Free from winter’s cold,
Youth and maiden bright,
To the holy light,
Naked in the sunny beams delight.

Once a youthful pair,
Filled with softest care,
Met in garden bright
Where the holy light
Had just removed the curtains of the night.

There, in rising day,
On the grass they play;
Parents were afar,
Strangers came not near,
And the maiden soon forgot her fear.

Tired with kisses sweet,
They agree to meet
When the silent sleep
Waves o’er heaven’s deep,
And the weary tired wanderers weep.

To her father white
Came the maiden bright;
But his loving look,
Like the holy book,
All her tender limbs with terror shook.

‘Ona, pale and weak,
To thy father speak!
O the trembling fear!
O the dismal care
That shakes the blossoms of my hoary hair!’

Source of the poem: Wikisource. See also The William Blake Archive.

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4 thoughts on “William Blake: A Little Girl Lost

  1. If I remember correctly Tom O’Carroll uses the first verse as the epigraph to his “Paedophilia: The Radical Case” – a very fitting choice.
    I recently read through and studied Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’ – the structure is very interesting as the poems, themes and imagery in the ‘innocence’ section are mirrored, echoed and transformed in the ‘experience’ section.
    A lot of the poems in the ‘Innocence’ section are quite spooky – one of my favourites is ‘The Garden of Love’ – interestingly he says he ‘used to play on the green’, implying (I like to think) that in an ideal world children would have access to the Garden of Love.

    I went to the Garden of Love,
    And saw what I never had seen:
    A Chapel was built in the midst,
    Where I used to play on the green.

    And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
    And “Thou shalt not.” writ over the door;
    So I turn’d to the Garden of Love,
    That so many sweet flowers bore. 

    And I saw it was filled with graves,
    And tomb-stones where flowers should be:
    And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,
    And binding with briars, my joys & desires.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I have not yet read Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, only a few occasional poems, but the two collections are on Wikisource. In The Garden of Love there is an attack on the clergy, while in A Little Girl Lost there is a subtle attack on religious prejudice disguised as paternal love.
      You might discuss The Garden of Love or any other relevant poem on your blog.

      Like

      • >”You might discuss The Garden of Love or any other relevant poem on your blog.”
        Yes, I think I will – especially as these poems were written at a period where the idea of childhood innocence started to take hold – at the start of the industrial revolution.

        Like

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