The School Boy by William Blake
I love to rise in a summer morn,
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the sky-lark 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 learnings bower,
Worn thro’ 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 & mother. if buds are nip’d,
And blossoms blown away,
And if the tender plants are strip’d
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.
The poem The School Boy is about a young boy who longs to be free from restraints and wishes to be allowed to play and explore the beautiful works of nature.
In the first stanza, the poem persona feels joyful to rise in the fresh and delightful summer morning as the chirping birds announce the break of dawn. He loves to be entertained by the hunter whose clarion can be heard from a distant field mixed with the sweet lullaby of the skylark.
The second stanza is set to juxtapose the opening stanza, as the persona feels disappointed at being sent to school on a sweet summer morning. He really wishes to enjoy the summer in all its beauty, hence, he hates to go to school which has many regulations and restrictions. Instead of enjoying the pleasures of summer, the school boy is forced to attend school where he spends his day in boredom and dismay.
In the third stanza, the persona expresses his weariness ‘… I drooping sit/and spend many an anxious hour’. He tries to forget the assault on him by the oppressive personality of the teacher (Under a cruel eye outworn) and the unnecessary lecture he is forced to attend ‘worn thro’ with dreary shower. The teacher dishes his lessons without attempting to understand the child’s need and urge for unchecked freedom.
In the fourth stanza, he likens himself to a bird and laments: how can the bird that is born for joy/sit in a cage and sing? In other words, if a child remains under fear and tension, under the skepticism of his teacher, he can never enjoy the natural instinct of joy and playfulness. The joy he should feel will be eroded by rigid and ruthless discipline.
In the fifth stanza, the poet complains to the highest authorities known to him, his father and mother: O! father and mother, if buds are nip’d/ and blossoms blow away/ and if the tender plants are strip’d… ‘.
The persona concludes his argument in the sixth stanza. He argues that if pleasures and joy are censored from a child’s life by strict parenting and schooling, the child’s adult life may be utterly unproductive, dry and useless.