Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Songs of Innocence and of Experience Summary and Analysis of "Nurse's Song" (Song of Experience)


In this poem, Blake parodies his earlier “Nurse’s Song” from Songs of Innocence. The nurse hears the whispering of her charges in the dell, indicating some secretive activity among the youths. Upon hearing their voices, the nurse’s face “turns green and pale,” an image associated with the unfulfilled spinster in Blake’s day. That she reflects upon missed pleasures suggests that the secretive children are in fact adolescents becoming aware of their own sexuality, a theme in keeping with the overall tone of Songs of Experience.


The nurse feels that she wasted her youth and calls the children home, warning them that their daylight and their youthful lives are wasted in play while their winter and night, their adulthood and old age, will be wasted “in disguise.” Since the sun has already set when the nurse calls them in, it is reasonable to suppose that the youths have already become sexually active and will now reap the consequences envisioned by the nurse: a sense of loss and loneliness that cannot be assuaged.

The poem's rhyme scheme, ABCB DEFE, deviates slightly from the common ABAB CDCD scheme, which suggests discontent on the part of the nurse, whose words disrupt the more simplistic rhymes of childhood. Structurally, this poem follows "The Chimney Sweeper" in its abbreviation of the Innocence counterpart. The experienced Nurse's song is half as long, with two stanzas rather than four. The first lines echo the "Nurse's Song" from Songs of Innocence, but there the similarities end. This Nurse is more cynical and seems almost delighted in the wasted day and the impending end of innocence and childhood that accompanies it.