Sounding Childhood

The Helpless Lamb

The original song is called "The Helpless Lamb."  If you listen carefully, though, you will hear that we modified it to "The Helpless Pig" when singing it before our Charlotte's Web theatre production! (not a professional recording; used with singers' parents' permission).  From The Advocate, No. 7, August 1979, its engraving insert establishes the pastoral tone by showcasing a Victorian-dressed shepherd with his shepherd’s crook and faithful dog surveying a flock of sheep, a church steeple in the distance registering the Christian parallels with Christ the Good Shepherd.  The song itself, with words by S. W. Partridge and music be G. W. Martin, is an interesting mix of amusement and didacticism.  The tune begins “moderato and lightly” in the major key of D, then moderates to the minor for the Chorus, making its message more dramatic.  Focused on the helplessness of the “little lamb,” it spends several verses, often in the more intense-sounding Chorus and with close tetrameter couplets, contrasting other animals’ more auspicious ferocity (which also paints them as less sympathetic, more “scary”): “Lions boast a mighty paw, / Eagles have a piercing claw; / Bulls can gore, and dogs can bite; / You can neither fly nor fight” (v. 1).  The lighter melody of the verses undergirds the thematic material: first, of the lamb’s deficiencies, “swiftness, strength, nor sense have you” (v. 1) and “Strength nor cunning you possess” (v. 2).  The third verse brings the shepherd’s protection into view: “At his side you need not fear, / Danger cannot reach you there” with its Chorus finally connecting the message to a child-singer: “I am weak, poor lamb, like you, / Need a guardian shepherd too; / That Good Shepherd, Jesus, need, / Or I shall be weak indeed.”  The final verse becomes a hymn-like appeal to the Divine: “Keep me from each threat’ning ill. / Let me never dare to rove / From His happy fold of love” (v. 4).  



(v. 1) Little lamb, so young and fair,
     What a helpless thing you are!
Swiftness, strength, nor sense have you,
     What, in danger, could you do?
Lions boast a mighty paw,         
Eagles have a piercing claw;
Bulls can gore, and dogs can bite;
You can neither fly nor fight.

(v. 2)  Foxes have a cunning sense,
Goats have horns for their defence [sic];
Strength nor cunning you possess,
                Unsuspecting helplessness!
Timid hares can run full well,
                Even snails can boast a shell;
Some can hide, they are so small;
You have no defence at all.

(v. 3) Yet your shepherd’s hand and eye,
                Ev’ry want can well supply;
At his side you need not fear,
                Danger cannot reach you there.
I am weak, poor lamb, like you,
                Need a guardian shepherd too;
That Good Shepherd, Jesus, need,
                Or I shall be weak indeed.

(v. 4) May He, ever at my side,
Be my Wisdom, Guard, and Guide;
May He aid my weakness still,
Keep me from each threat’ning ill.
Let me never dare to rove
From His happy fold of love;
If my Shepherd be not night,
                What a helpless thing am I!


 

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