In this installment, Mary Crockett Hill reads “Little Black Boy” by William Blake. Hill is the author of the award-winning book of poems, If You Return Home with Food. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Boston Review, River Styx, Pleiades, and American Poetry: The Next Generation. She is currently working on an anthology of poems by mothers and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
William Blake, "Little Black Boy"
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 bereaved of light.
My mother told 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 the black bodies and this sunburnt face
Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.
“For when our souls have learned 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.'”
This 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.