This page displays Michael Phillips’s reproduction of the poem “The Lamb” from William Blake’s best known collection of poems, Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Follow the link to read about the Songs as a collection. Phillips’s reproduction was displayed in the Blake in the Heartland exhibit at Tiffin University, which ran March-April 2015.
“The Lamb” pictures the child narrator of the poem, whose simple poetic voice reinforces the pastoral setting of the Songs of Innocence as well as the nature of Blakean innocence: the child asks a series of simple, direct questions that all receive simple, direct answers. Christ was both a child and a lamb, so in Christ the child and the lamb are one. “The Lamb” might be contrasted with “The Tyger” in Songs of Experience, in which questions are asked but not answered, and with the cruel indifference of life in “The Fly.”
Blake’s original is followed by Emily Brandehoff’s response painting, Silence of the Lamb, which complicates the dichotomy presented by Blake with the slightly macabre feeling and texture of the Lamb itself in addition to the fact that the lamb has a tiger’s legs and rear quarters. The title itself puns on the horror film Silence of the Lambs. Can innocence ever be fully separated from experience? Or is it that the experienced viewers of both Blake’s and Brandehoff’s art see both innocence and experience even in Blake’s most innocent poems? We might also notice that this painting is on a cross-section of a tree, so that a living thing was killed to create art, reminiscent of the broken reeds of Blake’s “Introduction” to the Songs of Innocence.
Blake’s originals taken from Wikimedia Commons. See a list of all available copies of the Songs, with the ability to view different copies of the same page side by side, at The William Blake Archive, which also provides transcriptions of and annotations for each individual plate. You can also read David Erdman’s edition of the Songs at The Blake Digital Text Project. Images of Michael Phillips’s reproductions by permission. Click on the images to enlarge.