Criticism of Organized Religion in Little Boy Lost and Little Boy Found
Organized religion and its adversity to the natural world is a topic that William Blake addresses quite frequently in his writings. In "Little Boy Lost," from Songs of Innocence, Blake presents a young child, representing the fledgling mind, getting lost in the dark forest of the material world. The illustration at the top of the page shows the little boy being led by a light or spirit of some kind, the "vapour" that Blake later speaks of. The boy cries out to his father, not his biological father, but the priest that has been guiding him on his education of the world thus far. The priest is moving too fast for the boy and leaves him behind to wander through the thick mire of the world of man alone.
In the next plate, "Little Boy Found," Blake reconciles the negative image of the priest and religion that was presented in the previous work. It begins by recounting the tale of the boy who got lost by following the "wandering light" of the priest's version of religion. God hears the boy's cries and comes to his rescue "like his father in white." This could be referring to God appearing as human, or Jesus, or in the image of his father, the priest. God leads the child back to his mother, the mother earth, depicted at the right of the stanza, perhaps with wings. The mother earth had been seeking her natural child who had been led astray by the misconceptions of man-made religion. The illustration at the top of the plate shows the little boy and a female figure, presumably the mother earth, both with halos, walking through the forest hand in hand. This hints at the divination of man in his proper natural context. Blake is making a statemen...
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...nity of all living things, including himself. The harsh reaction of organized religion to this idea is illustrated in the second "Little Boy Lost," in which the youth is actually burned for his rebellious thinking. The first set of poems tells of the boy's lack of success in a religious system in that did not seem to really care about the boy, and left him floundering. It then describes his introduction to God in the forest, who brought him back to his mother, the earth, which showed him proper reverence of God through nature, not priestly education. The second poem captures organized religion's harsh reaction to this unorthodox and rebellious thinking, and destroys the boy for trying to reach outside of the accepted normal teachings. Together, the poems show an evolution from Blake's dissatisfaction with organized religion to an outright indictment of its practices.
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