The Little Vagabond

The Little Vagabond


  • “The Little Vagabond” is a poem by William Blake in which a youthful vagrant yearns for a more heartening environment in the church. The child advocates for a less austere and more welcoming approach to devotion.


  • The child represents innocence and genuineness, reflecting a want for love and understanding as opposed to rigid, austere religious practices.
  • The Alehouse stands for warmth, joy and community, as compared to the uninviting environment of the church.
  • The warmth and cold serve as critical dichotomy throughout the poem, emphasising the contrast between comforting empathy and chilly indifference.


  • Critique of Institutional Religion: The main theme of “The Little Vagabond” is a critique of the stern, inflexible routines of the Church, as opposed to the spontaneous joy embodied by the Alehouse.
  • Idealised Innocence: The idealism of the child is manifested in his hopes for a more joyful, loving relationship with the Church.
  • Love and Joy: The aspiration for a more joyful, inclusive Church underlines the poem’s exploration of love.


  • Visual imagery: “And modest Dame Lurch, who is always at church” creates a vivid portrayal of rigid and unbending followers of the Church.
  • Thermal imagery: “And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy; He’d have God for his father & never want joy” uses warm and cold imagery to juxtapose oppression and solace.

Rhyme and Meter

  • The poem employs a regular ABCB rhyme scheme that facilitates a lighthearted and playful tone.
  • Despite the cheery rhythm and sing-song cadence, underlying tones of social critique deliver a sense of irony.


  • The ‘Alehouse’ is referred to as a symbol of joy, warmth, and community - in stark contrast with the frigid Church.
  • The poem contrasts ‘God as Parent’ and the existing perception prevailing within religious institutions, suggesting an alternative, loving and nurturing embodiment of God.


  • “The Little Vagabond” portrays Blake’s criticisms of the Church, as he criticises their austerity and lack of warmth during his time.
  • The poem signifies Blake’s characteristic sympathies for the lower classes, reflecting his belief in the authentic and direct religious experience, unconstrained by rigid institutional rules.
  • A grasp of the recurring themes of spontaneity, joy and love in Blake’s works can facilitate a deeper understanding of “The Little Vagabond”.

Through these points, readers can get a rich analysis of “The Little Vagabond” by William Blake, thereby appreciating his ideas on authentic religious experiences and his critique of formal religious practices.