Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Little Black Boy


The best thing said on the subject of race, about which far, far too much is said these days. It goes through my head very often and contrasts very well with the cant written on this subject in our time. It was written by a very theologically liberal Protestant and profoundly religious man:

My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but O! my soul is white;
White as an angel is the English child: 
But I am black as if bereav'd 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 pointing 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 sun-burnt 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 & 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: 

Ill shade him from the heat till he can bear, 
To lean in joy upon our fathers knee. 
And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him and he will then love me.

I know little about and have not read very much of Blake who was so fashionable when I was up at university, as he had been since the 1960s. I am much more a lover of Pope and Cowper - or much better Chaucer. But speaking of Blake's religious views I know, from Bagehot's essay, that he startled Henry Crabb Robinson by telling him: 
'Jesus Christ is the only God. And so am I and so are you.'

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