Monday, July 27, 2009

"The Little Black Boy"

One of the "Five Songs from William Blake" which Thomas Hampson performed Sunday afternoon was "The Little Black Boy," about how the black boy in Africa learns about God from his mother and hopes to help the English boy learn to be close to God as well.

Here is the text.

The Little Black Boy

William Blake

My mother bore me in the southern wild,

And I am black, but oh my soul is white!

White as an angel is the English child,

But I am black, as if bereaved of light.

My mother taught me underneath a tree, 

And, sitting down before the heat of day, 

She took me on her lap and kissed me, 

And, pointed to the east, began to say:

"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 noonday.

"And we are put on earth a little space, 

That we may learn to bear the beams of love 

And these black bodies and this sunburnt face 

Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

"For when our souls have learn'd the heat to bear, 

The cloud will vanish, we shall hear His voice, 

Saying, 'Come out from the grove, my love and care 

And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice',"

Thus did my mother say, and kissed me; 

And thus I say to little English boy. 

When I from black and he from white cloud free, 

And round the tent of God like lambs we joy

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.

 I found the final words, "And he will then love me" very poignant. They spoke of the black boy's longing to be loved and of the English boy's inability to love until the black boy has enabled him to be close to God, and of the love coming about when the black boy has done that. They spoke to me of both personal and racial reconciliation, and they moved me to tears.

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