Innocence

William Blake's poem "The Little Black Boy," written in 1789, depicts the hopes of young black boy who dreams of a time, at the hands of God, when he and who Blake refers to as the "little English boy" will share in God's love and joy together. Although debate continues, it seems that Blake expects the reader to accept the point of view of the little black boy, as it is presented in the poem. The innocent way in which Blake expresses the black boy's anticipation for a time when he and the English boy will be at peace and even love one another seems to sway the argument in favor of an acceptance of the little black boy's point of view. The first four stanzas of the poem seem to solidify its placement, at least in this publication, in the Songs of Innocence. These stanzas clearly depict the black boy's desire to be accepted by the English boy, in a place where he feels circumstances would be different -- paradise. The way in which the stanzas depict this desire, however, lends a warmth and innocence to the boy's hopes as he dreams of happier days: "Look on the rising sun: there God does live, And gives his light, and gives his heat away; And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive Comfort in morning, joy in the noon day." (lines 9-12) In this, the third stanza, the little black boy's mother tells him to look ahead into the rising sun where God dwells. This seems to symbolize an anticipation of a time when equality and joy will prevail. These lines actually seem to parallel the cliche "a new day is dawning," as the boy and his mother look longingly ahead into the future. This longing and expectation, however, does not seem to be tainted with bitterness or scorn toward the little English boy and presumably the people he represents. The little black boy's disposition is that of innocent anticipation and hope. In the last two stanzas, the little black boy's feelings toward the English boy become more lucid. The presence of malice or bitterness in his attitude toward the English boy remains undetectable, but the black boy begins to refer to the time when they will live together in harmony: And thus I say to little English boy: When I from black cloud and he from white cloud free, (lines 22-23) The little black boy's reference to a shedding of external differences implies his anticipation of equality between himself and the English boy. The next stanza, however, seems to contradict this anticipation of equality: I'll shade him from the heat till he can bear To lean in joy upon our father's knee; And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair, And be like him and he will then love me. (lines 25-28) These lines seem to present evidence for the argument to reject the little black boy's point of view. The black boy's continuing service to the English boy, even before God, seems so awkward and inappropriate that it smacks of sarcasm. This, however, is not the case. If the innocence of the preceding stanzas is taken into account and carried over into the final stanzas, then the interpretation changes. Considering the religious aspects of the poem along with the innocence of the little black boy, his service to the English boy can be interpreted as an example of Christian forgiveness. The black boy does his best to help his brother, the English boy, to enjoy the paradise before them. According to the tone of "The Little Black Boy," it seems that Blake would have the reader except the point of view of the little black boy as an innocent desire for happiness and brotherhood in the future. The black boy does not desire retribution from the English boy, only his love and acceptance. This innocence, prevalent throughout the poem, leads the reader to believe that "The Little Black Boy" reflects the sincere hopes of the little black boy himself.