William Blake’s “The Little Vagabond”.
William Blake was an English poet, an artist, engraver, myth maker, visionary and one of the greatest romantics of his time. His work is till today considered one of the most excellent contributions to English literature.
He wanted man to open his eyes to the world of Thought and imagination and his work portrays this effort.
This poem, ‘The Little Vagabond’ is one of his finest pieces which is about
a child beggar who wanders around and is living his life with the help of charity from the Church. As he is in his childhood he builds up an innocent view of life. The poem is based on the conversation of this child with his mother. This conversation highlights the close relationship one shares with his mother and defines the feelings associated with this rare and deep found relationship.
‘Dear mother, dear mother, the church is cold,
But the ale-house is healthy and pleasant and warm…’
The poem illustrates the sharp contrast between innocence and experience. The child is so innocent that he is trying to associate the happiness of the ale-house with Church. He wants the happiness and gaiety of an ale-house to be in the Church too.
The poem contains the element of alienation, where alienation can be defined as breaking all rules and regulations and floating to a new world where calmness prevails and one is free to feel. This feeling of alienation that the poet is talking about is present in all stanzas of the poem.
One can associate with this alienation theme as now and then we do feel frustrated from the pressures of the world and we long for a transformation to a world of bliss where we have no restrictions and are free to feel and imagine as we please.
The poem depicts the urge in humans to feel free and it says that self-flattery and vanity are a strong element in man’s nature. Man likes to please himself with flattering images and imagines himself outside the confines of the material world and its boundaries. The child’s thoughts in this poem indicate to an alienation from this material world to a new dimension
of thoughts and imagination where the soul and mind is free from all restrictions and obligations and thus, seeks for an escape into the world of fantasy.
‘But if at the church they would give us some ale,
And a pleasant fire our souls to regale,
We’d sing and we’d pray all the live-long day,
Nor ever once wish from the church to stray…’
The poem has brilliantly showcased the simplicity of the child as he speaks to his mother overwhelmed by the joy he has witnessed in the ale-house as compared to the dreariness he sees in the Church. His imagination kicks full force as he sees this transformation from the materialistic world to a world of pure ecstasy and unadulterated bliss.
However the worthiness of the Church can be considered too if the same joyous moments are arranged in the Church. The souls when visiting Church would at least then be in a festive mood, singing and praying. When such pleasure is present in the Church too as in the ale house then no one would want to leave the Church and worship would be a pleasure too.
‘Then the parson might preach, and drink, and sing,
And we’d be as happy as birds in the spring…’
Then all souls in the church along with the Clergymen would be in an enchanting mood when everyone’s imagination would reach its peak.
Everyone would perform their duties in a good mood. The Clergymen would preach about the religion and the worshippers would listen and respond to it as gaily and brightly as birds chirp around in a frenzy of excitement welcoming the birth of flowers in spring.
In such a happy atmosphere old women would not engage unwilling children in long boring sessions. Those long hours crippled the children’s imaginations and ability to think and feel. The poem binds together the unbearable influences of the school with those of the Church. It says that the Church should be made a place of free thoughts and easy worship rather then a forbidding and stressed out place.
‘And God, like a father rejoicing to see,
His children as pleasant and happy as he…’
When the mood would be so tranquil and imaginative then God will also welcome the prayers of his followers and his manner would be as gay and loving as a father’s is while looking at his children. The imagination in the Church is so strong that it weaves a direct path to God who is a loving, not a hostile, father. The poem associates the love of a father with the love of God when his people pray and worship with a pure heart and soul and use their imagination. God would be so happy to see His creation that he would forgive the Devil. God in a state of happiness would greet the Devil too to gifts and drinks.
No one anymore would be answerable to his deeds and God’s generosity would reach its limit as he would forgive everyone and forget all issues he had with the Devil. God would in his state of extreme pleasure place Devil in heaven amidst gifts and other apparels which all the other blessed ones were enjoying.
Souls start fancying their chances of being in heaven without fulfilling their responsibilities and without accounting to God.
All in all this poem is conveying a message against the worldly approach of man towards God and says that worshipping in the Church should be the building of a strong bond with true feelings that emerge from within the soul.
These can be addressed when there is a direct link between God and us which is a result of alienation to the world of dreams and imagination.
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