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The Little Boy Lost and The Little Boy Found

The Little Boy Lost
``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 dew;
The mire was deep, & the child did weep,
And away the vapour flew.

The Little Boy Found
The little boy lost in the lonely fen,
Led by the wand'ring light,
Began to cry; but God, ever nigh,
Appear'd like his father in white.

He kissed the child & by the hand led
And to his mother brought,
Who in sorrow pale, thro' the lonely dale,
Her little boy weeping sought.

Commentary by Jeff Gillett

The first impression that The Little Boy Lost gives is of a pitiful, helpless child appealing to the uncaring father who strides on before him, ignoring his questions and pleas. However, Blake’s illustration suggests a very different interpretation, as the little boy follows a cloudy figure that he mistakenly takes as being his father when in fact ‘no father was there’. The boy has been misled by the depth of the mist, or ‘mire’, and by what is variously described as a ‘vapour’ or, in The Little Boy Found, a ‘wand’ring light’.  When he realises that he is lost, it is a watchful, caring and affectionate God who appears ‘like his father in white’ to guide him safely home to his anxious mother.

The first stanza of The Little Boy Lost is the urgent, plaintive voice of the boy, while the second stanza is an impersonal narrative voice, which continues into The Little Boy Found. The metre of both poems is irregular, with some use of falling rhythm, with the emphasis on the first beat of each foot (although the second and fourth line of each stanza of The Little Boy Lost is iambic). However, there is a noticeable rhythmic lightening in the second poem, echoing the story-line as the child is rescued. This is achieved by the predominance of a three-beat rhythm, where The Little Boy Lost is written predominantly with two beats to each foot, creating a more urgent, perhaps even aggressive mood. 

In the Songs of Innocence, God is always protective and benign; the behaviour and attitude of the mother resembles that of the parents in The Little Girl Found. Again, the parents are protective, and the view that is offered is comforting to a child. The Songs of Innocence include some uncomfortable or even terrifying moments for a child, but there is always a sense of somebody watching and guarding. The only clearly uncaring parent in the Songs of Innocence is the father in The Chimney Sweeper, who sold his son and condemned him to his life as a sweep.