The Little Girl Lost - Synopsis and commentary

Synopsis of The Little Girl Lost

The Little Girl Lost

The poem begins with two framing stanzas which introduce the poem as a vision of future restoration. It then turns to the vision. The child Lyca is wandering in the desert. She desires to sleep but feels unable to do so if her mother is worrying about her because she is lost. She can only sleep if her mother does, too. She does sleep and wild beasts come out to look at her. The animals play around her and the lion, king of beasts licks her and weeps ruby tears. The lioness undresses her and they carry her off to their cave.

This poem was originally included in the Songs of Innocence but was moved to the Songs of Experience when the whole sequence Songs of Innocence and Experience was published.


The poem falls into three sections:

  • Stanzas one and two - the prophetic perspective of the poem's speaker about the reconciliation of the earth with its maker
  • Stanzas three to eight - seven year old Lyca's travels and thoughts
  • Stanzas nine to thirteen - the animals' treatment of Lyca

Framing device

The first two stanzas employ biblical imagery about a slumbering, fallen earth coming back to its creator. When this happens, the thistles and desert associated with the curse on the land after human disobedience (Genesis 3:17-18) will be restored to the paradise garden of the original Eden. In the light of the following narrative about Lyca, Blake is perhaps suggesting that his readers' probable alarm about wilderness, darkness and wild animals is a one-sided, fallen perspective that does not take into account the potential for good to ensue. Certainly, the global, a-historical dimension of the opening stanzas makes readers alert to a symbolic interpretation of Lyca's experiences rather than a merely literal one.

An allegorical interpretation

This poem has attracted two major strands of criticism. One sees it as a Platonic allegory regarding the relationship of soul and body. The other sees it as Blake's allegory of sexual awakening. This commentary takes the second approach, following the line suggested by Jonathan Cook.

According to Cook, sleep paradoxically represents sexual awakening, a passage from one state of consciousness to another. Sleep allows dreaming and access to feelings and experiences unavailable to the waking mind. Lyca desires to attain this new state. She is hindered by her perceptions of her mother's fears. It is not her mother's actual prohibitions but Lyca's ideas about them. Blake is suggesting that human inhibitions lie primarily within the mind, rather than resulting from external factors.

According to this interpretation, the beasts coming to play when Lyca sleeps are in the child's dream. They are no longer seen as destructive and devouring but playful and, in the case of the lion, noble. The reader is left uneasy, however, when the child is stripped naked and carried away.

Investigating The Little Girl Lost

  • This is not an easy poem – how do your ideas about its meaning when you first read it compare with what is suggested here?
  • What do you now think it means?
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