The Little boy lost is one of the toughest poems to analyse! The poem actually is written in two levels of understanding. The poet gives sufficient but extremely fade hints of what actually he means by “the little boy”, “night was dark”, “no father was there”, “the mire was deep” and “the vapour flew”. Things really become twisted and turvy in the second stanza. The little boy is lost, and if this is to be true, the question is where is he lost? The poet says, he is lost in the darkness of the night and that’s where the actual understanding begins. Well, this poem is not as easy it seems! Therefore, I welcome your opinion and criticisms!
“Father! Father! Where are you going?
O do not walk so fast.
Speak, father, speak to your little boy,
Or else I shall be lost.”
The night was dark, no father was there:
The child was wet with due;
The mire was deep, and the child did weep,
And away the vapour flew.
1) wet with dew: drenched in the moisture
2) mire: mud
3) vapour: dim light
Setting of the Poem
The poem lacks much background description but the poet has managed to create a mist of suspense. The innocence of the child is apparent when he speaks, “Speak, father, speak to your little boy.”
Theme of The Little Boy Lost
The little boy lost, though adopted from the Songs of Innocence, is a prelude to the world of experience. Again this eight lined poem has much more than what the context suggests, with implied inner meanings. Father is considered as the guided angel, a guardian figure in Earth who is sympathetic to the needs of any children. But, here, the poet portrays an ignorant father who turns his back upon the little boy or walks so fast that the boy cannot keep up with the pace!
Explanation of The Little Boy Lost
The poem imputes a negative role of the father who treats the innocent child without any sympathy. The father is mute to the call of his child. The term father may be confused with God. This becomes evident on reading, The Little Boy Found. In this poem, Blake portrays “the prime guardian” as insensitive and indifferent to the emotions of a child. As “a father” is proved to be unkind, we must understand– Blake made this poem stand at the threshold of innocence, as we are encountered with the colours of experience.
Inner Meaning of the Poem:
This is again one of Blake’s masterpieces! Blake is instrumental in hiding great implications with simple twist in phrases. The most important lines in this poem are:-
The night was dark, no father was there:
The child was wet with dew;
…And away the vapour flew
Night is always dark, that’s a general idea. The word ‘dark’ must have more significance that just justifying the darkness of the night! This phrase, “no father was there” actually shakes the entire poem. Father, actually turns out to be an illusion, and the readers must understand this! There is no father! It’s just the child’s imagination of having someone to guide him, otherwise he’ll be lost!
In the entire poem, we don’t have a picture of the father. The little boy calls for his father who actually is not there. This becomes evident on reading the line, “…no father was there:”
The boy actually in the poem calls for a “guided angel” to show him the path of righteousness. Otherwise he would move in the wrong direction. That’s what happen in the second paragraph. The child realises that there was no father (no one to guide him in the path of righteousness). Thus, he becomes wet with dew. Dew refers to the ‘worldly pleasure’ and the line “The child was wet with due;” means- drenched in the moisture of materialistic pleasure. The child unwillingly gets covered in the mud (the grin worldly pleasures)
And yes, there comes the superb last line,
And away the vapour flew
The child finally forbade the path of God and righteousness.. The child who cried “…or else I shall be lost” in the first stanza actually gets lost in the sheer darkness of the materialistic world. The dim light (vapour) on the marshes gets blown off. The little glow of “righteousness” in the child died and thus the phrase, away the vapour flew.
The child is actually lost and only God can redeem him now! Here is the complete analysis of the little boy found!