The sun rises on a green field where birds sing and children play. As they play, “Old John with white hair” and other elderly observers laugh at their antics and remember a time when they were young, energetic, and playful. Eventually the little ones grow tired and the sun begins to set. The children gather back to their mothers and prepare for a night’s rest.
“The Ecchoing Green” consists of three ten-line stanzas, each in turn composed of five rhyming couplets. The first stanza focuses on the children playing in the morning; the second stanza shifts to the older people recalling their own youthful pleasures and is possibly set in the afternoon; and the third takes place at evening, as the weary children begin their tired journey home.
“The Ecchoing Green” is a joyful poem celebrating spring. The green fields, chirping birds, and playing children remind the elderly observers of their own youth and bring them joy as well. That the field is “Ecchoing” indicates that this scene, like the season of spring itself, has played out before and will play out again and again in the future.
In the second stanza, time has progressed. The older people remember their youth, as these children will someday be reminded of it by their own descendants. Spring is still here, but it is a spring remembered, not the vibrant, impassioned spring of the children in the first stanza. Already the flowers fade and the possibility of endings, and eventually of death, is present. Nonetheless, the old people “laugh at [the children's] play,” suggesting a pleasure taken by the more mature in the sheer innocent joy of youth. Similarly, the tone of the stanza is not intended to be sorrowful, but inspiring. That the older people are still around is a testimony to the persistence of life; the oak of the second stanza stands in the green as a symbol of strength and security to accentuate this feeling.
A hint of melancholy affects the poem in the last stanza, where the “Ecchoing” green becomes the “darkening” green. Spring will always come, and with it all the joys and vitality of the season, but it always eventually ends, giving way to the cold and gloom of autumn and winter. Similarly, there will always be young people to celebrate their joy in this world, but every young child eventually matures into an adult like “Old John,” who must content himself with secondhand or remembered joy while others dance the dance of life.