“The Little Girl Lost” by William Blake


I have to say that this is not one of my favorite poems by Blake. I read it twice today and both times I ended up scratching my head and not really sure how I felt about it. It’s a fairly long poem, so here is a link for those who wish to read it.


When I first read it, I felt that the little girl, Lyca, was a symbol for a virginal Eve archetype, wandering in the desert and seeking to return to the garden. But then, after the second reading, I felt maybe that she represents a young woman reaching sexual maturity. Then when I tried to figure out the symbolism connected to the lion, leopard, and tyger, it seemed more ambiguous. Is the lion being protective, like a Christ symbol, or is the lion taking sexual advantage of Lyca, as represented by his licking of her bosom and bringing her into his cave?

I don’t often look up the meaning of poems, since I like to interpret them for myself, but this one caused me to look up an academic paper on the poem. Unfortunately, this only made matters worse. Here is the paper I perused.


As you can see, even in academic circles, interpretations are all over the chart. No one seems to agree on anything regarding this poem (nor the subsequent “The Little Girl Found”). Frankly, I wish I had never looked at this. I feel more confused about this poem now than I did when I first read it.

There is one critique from this paper that I completely agree with, that of Kathleen Raine: “The poems fail, Raine argues, because Blake relies on traditional sources rather than his own imagination.” It is Blake’s imaginative power that has always drawn me to his work. If, as Raine asserts, these poems are Blake’s reworking of other allegories, that would explain why the poem feels rather ambiguous and not cohesive to me.

Despite the fact that I don’t care for this particular poem, I do love Blake’s work. But it stands to reason that when dealing with the poems of someone as prolific as William Blake, not every poem is going to be great. Still, even a not-so-great Blake poem is worth reading, and “The Little Girl Lost” falls into that category for me; not so great, but still worth reading.



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8 responses to ““The Little Girl Lost” by William Blake

  1. Love Blake and his engravings so magnificent

  2. Hi Jeff, I’ve got to say I loved this poem. I also loved the article on it that you referenced. What I liked was how the name of the girl, connected with the word ‘harlot,’ conttasts with her innocence. The archetype that I see activated here is perhaps The Lady of the Beasts. I think you were on to something with the theme of sexual maturity but I think it is even more. I think the girl is initiated into the mysteries of Life by entering the cave and being reborn in it.

    • Hi Monika! I knew I could count on you to shed some light on this. I will read it again later today, keeping in mind your comments. Sometimes, with poems and art, the things that don’t appeal to you at first sometimes become your favorites later on. That’s why I always try to keep an open mind. Thanks again for your insights. — Jeff

      • I still hope Ulysses will appeal to me. I have been struggling with it so far but I still love and appreciate your summaries.

      • I’m glad that my posts have been helpful. It is a tough book, no doubt. If there is ever something about the book you want to discuss, please let me know. I may not be able to provide an explanation, but I’m always interested in sharing thoughts and ideas with you.

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