Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Summary and Analysis of "The School-Boy"

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Summary

Another critique of human societal restrictions on the nature-loving human spirit, this poem is less harsh and more playful than most of Blake’s other such works. The boy loves “to rise in a summer morn,/When the birds sing on every tree.” He enjoys nature in all its splendor, “But to go to school in a summer morn,/O! it drives all joy away.” The boy longs for the freedom of the outdoors and cannot “take delight” in his book. He asks, “How can the bird that is born for joy,/Sit in a cage and sing.” His youth and innocence are suited to playing in the summertime fields, not to sitting captive to a dreary educational system.

Analysis

"The School-Boy" is a six-stanza poem of five lines each. Each stanza follows an ABABB rhyme scheme, with the first two stanzas using the same word "morn" to rhyme in the first lines. The repetition of the word “morn” as well as similarly low-sounding words such as "outworn," "bower," "dismay," and "destroy" lend the poem a bleak tone in keeping with the school-boy's attitude at being trapped inside at school rather than being allowed to move freely about the countryside on this fine summer day.

Blake suggests that the educational system of his day destroys the joyful innocence of youth; Blake himself was largely self-educated and did not endure the drudgery of the classroom as a child. Again, the poet wishes his readers to see the difference between the freedom of imagination offered by close contact with nature, and the repression of the soul caused by Reason’s demands for a so-called education.