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On the first poem of his book Songs of Innocence and Experience, William Blake wrote:

Piping down the valleys wild,

piping songs of pleasant glee,

on a cloud I saw a child,

and he laughing said to me:


'Pipe a song about a Lamb!' (...)

According to the context and some googling, piping could be playing the flute, but I'm in doubt, cause it seems to be a voice-singed song.

Any help?

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  • To pipe is to play music on a pipe (a musical instrument that resembles a tube with small holes in it). – Andrew Tobilko Mar 1 '19 at 22:58
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    On a side note, a person (usually, a kid) pipes something if they say something in a high-pitched voice. – Andrew Tobilko Mar 1 '19 at 23:01
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It does mean playing a flute (or, more likely, a countryman's hand-cut pipe). Note that in the third stanza the child asks the poet to "drop thy pipe" and sing the song he has been playing; in the fourth stanza the child asks the poet to write the song down, which he does in the final stanza (again with a "rural" instrument).

Note that this poem is not the one the poet performed for the child: this one affects to tell how the "Songs of Innocence" (including the one he performed, presumably "Little lamb, who made thee?") came to be written down.

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