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The Schoolboy by William Blake

By Nkem Egenuka on Fri, 30/09/2016 - 12:50

The Schoolboy

I love to rise in a summer morn,
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the skylark sings with me:
O what sweet company!

But to go to school in a summer morn,
O it drives all joy away!
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.

Ah then at times I drooping sit,
And spend many an anxious hour;
Nor in my book can I take delight,
Nor sit in learning’s bower,
Worn through with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?
How can a child, when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing,
And forget his youthful spring!

O father and mother if buds are nipped,
And blossoms blown away;
And if the tender plants are stripped
Of their joy in the springing day,
By sorrow and care’s dismay,

How shall the summer arise in joy,
Or the summer fruits appear?
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,
Or bless the mellowing year,
When the blasts of winter appear?


About the Poem

"The School Boy" is a 1789 poem by William Blake and published as a part of his poetry collection entitled "Songs of Innocence."

The poem is written in the pastoral tradition that focuses on the downsides of formal learning. It considers how going to school on a summer day "drives all joy away".The boy in this poem is more interested in escaping his classroom.

The personae in this poem is a happy boy who ‘loves to rise’ to the fresh and delightful summer morning. The cheeping of the birds announces the day break. The boy gets entertained by the company of the hunter who blows his clarion from a distance field and sweet lullabies of skylark.

He detests going to school on a sweet summer morning because ‘it drives all the joy’ he wishes to enjoy the mirth of summer. He is tired of being placed ‘under a cruel eye’which is the strict supervision of his teacher. Instead of enjoying the pleasures of summer, the child has to compulsory attended the school where he spends his day in boredom and dismay.

The child expresses his weariness. He sits ‘drooping’ in the sea of boredom. The restrains the assault on him by the oppressive personality of the teacher and his ‘dreary shower’ (tiresome lectures). The learning’s bower refers to a garden where the child can be taught in a interesting way, only if nature accompanies him instead of the school teacher.

A bird which is born happy and free can never sing sweet songs if caged. Similarly, a child filled with  annoying fear and tension can never enjoy the natural instincts of joy and playfulness. A rigid world will ruthlessly take away the beautiful  childhood day of a person’s life.

The boy complains to the father and mother, ‘if buds are nipped, And blossoms blown away’ where there is no one to care for. If misery withers the tender plants the beautiful buds and the new born buds, summer can never be joyful.

If care and concern rule over the plants, flowers, birds, such a summer will be dry and will bear no fruit. The child enquires his parents as to how they can win back what grieve has destroyed. If the plants are withered due to the canker of grief, no fruit will be there in the season of autumn, this implies that if childhood pleasures and joys are censored and truncated one has to be very sure that the adult life will be utterly dry and unproductive.


About the Poet

William Blake was born on the 28th November 1757 at Soho, London. He was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. All through his lifetime, he was unrecognized but is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His prophetic poetry has been said to form “ the least read body of poetry in the English language”. Due to his visual artistry,  a contemporary art critic proclaimed him “far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced”. In 2002, Blake was placed at number 38 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. Although he lived in London his entire life, he produced diverse and  rich oeuvre, which embraced the imagination as “the body of God” or “human existence itself”.

Blake was considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, but he is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness, creativity and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterised as part of the Romantic movement and as "Pre-Romantic".  He Reverenced the Bible but was hostile to the Church of England. Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American Revolutions.Though later he rejected many of these political beliefs, he maintained an amiable relationship with the political activist Thomas Paine; he was also influenced by thinkers such as Emanuel Swedenborg.Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake's work makes him difficult to classify. The 19th-century scholar William Rossetti characterised him as a "glorious luminary", and "a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors".

 He drew his last breath on  the 12th of  August 1827, aged 69 at Charing cross, London.





Picture Credit

Cavan Images via Getty Images

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