Holy Thursday (Songs of Innocence)
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The poem depicts Holy Thursday, in which rows of clean children dressed in cheerful clothes walk into Saint Paul's Cathedral in a procession, guided by beadles. Citizens of London town, including the aged man, sit and observe the ceremony while thousands of little boys and girls elevate their hands and a song is raised to Heaven.
The poem is a criticism of the Foundling Hospital. Orphans at the hospital would be cleaned and marched annually to the cathedral to sing. This was seen as a treat for the orphans. The bleak reality of their lives is depicted in Holy Thursday (Songs of Experience).
‘Twas on a Holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean,
The children walking two and two, in red and blue and green,
Grey headed beadles walk’d before, with wands as white as snow,
Till into the high dome of Paul's they like Thames’ waters flow.
Oh what a multitude they seem’d, these flowers of London town!
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own.
The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
Thousands of little boys and girls raising their innocent hands.
Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of Heaven among.
Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor;
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.