Songs of Innocence and of Experience

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


The nurse of the title listens as the children under her care play on the green hills. As the day ends, she urges them to come home, but the children plead that the sun has not yet set and they “cannot go to sleep.” They argue by analogy that “the little birds fly/And the hills are all covered with sheep,” and if nature has not put her children to bed, why should the nurse require that her charges go to sleep? She is the one who introduces the argument from nature by claiming the darkening sky as a sign that bedtime drew near, after all. The nurse accedes to their request and the children laugh and play until dark. The last line, “And all the hills ecchoed,” implies that just as the children have expressed their desire to emulate nature and the birds and sheep still wandering about, nature in turn emulates the children in their joyous laughter.


"Nurse's Song" is four stanzas long, twice the length of its counterpart in Songs of Experience. Each stanza is an ABCB quatrain. Blake often uses the ABCB pattern in Songs of Innocence to reflect the tone of an adult speaker, in contrast to the AABB pattern usually associated with children and pure innocents. The first stanza sets the scene, and the remainder of the poem is structure in a call-and-response format, with the Nurse first calling the children in, then the children responding with their counterargument, and finally the nurse accepting the children's terms and letting them play longer.