The Little Vagabond
Marissa & Caroline
Dear mother, dear mother, the Church is cold;
But the Alehouse is healthy, and pleasant, and warm.
Besides, I can tell where I am used well;
Such usage in heaven will never do well.
But, if at the Church they would give us some ale,
And a pleasant fire our souls to regale,
We’d sing and we’d pray all the livelong day,
Nor ever once wish from the Church to stray.
Then the Parson might preach, and drink, and sing,
And we’d be as happy as birds in the spring;
And modest Dame Lurch, who is always at church,
Would not have bandy children, nor fasting, nor birch.
And God, like a father, rejoicing to see
His children as pleasant and happy as He,
Would have no more quarrel with the Devil or the barrel,
But kiss him, and give him both drink and apparel.
• Vagabond – Connotes a homeless person, thief, pitiful
individual, criminality, hunger, thirst, want, need, poor,
lonely, poverty – possibly a pejorative term (insult)
• “Little” and “Vagabond” juxtapose, little connotes
childlike, innocent, low status, unimportant, vulnerable
“meek and mild”
• “The” – Single story, more personal, stereotypical –
labels everyone, negative view
• “Dear mother, Dear mother” – Letter format, desperation,
pleading tone, orphaned? Abandoned by parents? Could
be a death bed vision of his mother.
• Blake may have been using the Little Vagabond to
express his own ideas towards religion. The child might
be staying in the church through desperation of having
no where else to go, or he may be being forced to stay
there. He is begging his mother to take him back to the
• The ale-house is full of free minded people who are only
here to enjoy themselves because of no rules and
regulations. They can feel freedom from the oppressive
church and express themselves fully.
• The ale-house contrasts to the church which is cold and
the church people keep malevolence and malice.
• “Bandy children” – rickets – lack of sunlight, time outdoors for
play and freedom – church is quite restricted
• “birch” – a stick used as a cane - caned and beaten by “dame
Lurch” – who is an evil folk figure who punished children –
lurch and church rhyme linking the two together
• “fasting” – a religious behaviour e.g. lent, but also could be as
a form of punishment conjures and image of underweight,
• Image of the devil – “Kiss him” – implies that the devil comes
from mistreatment – heresy – suggesting the devil is within
the church of God
• “Happy as birds” – simile – birds connotes freedom
• Although the poem is childlike – high register lexis “apparel”
“rejoicing” “quarrel” – appropriate because it is in the
• Semantic field of malnourishment – “bandy” “fasting” lack of
food and poor treatment
• “ale-house” – a happy warm place with food and drink which
is juxtaposed with the “cold” church – cold connotes lack of
warmth and mistreatment - double meaning - cold emotionally
as well as physically
• God – “Father” for these orphaned/lost children without
parents – how it should be in the LV’s vision – not how it
• Set out like a letter “Dear mother” – death bed plea? Letter to
• rhyming couplets throughout the poem – happy tone but
spoiled by the first 2 lines not rhyming – links to “Introduction
to Innocence” – rhyming couplets through most of poem – no
rhyme when talking about the church – not a happy place –
rhyme reflects a song and joyfulness but the church does not
make the children feel joyful – rhyme reflects the child
persona – the lack of rhyme shows experience because of
mistreatment at hands of the church
• 1st Stanza about how the church actually is and the last 3
about the LV’s vision of the church – desperation for his vision
to come true.
Why was the poem banned?
• Heretical – he was suggesting that the Devil and God
should work in harmony to make the world a better place
– not supposed to equate the Devil with God – they are
separate because the Devil is evil and God is good –
linking good and evil is very controversial
• Banned because Blake was putting across views that
others didn’t agree with at the time, going against the
orthodox religion – big part of peoples lives – all they had
to work towards (heaven) because living conditions and
life was such poor quality.