by Shiori Chen, Belmont
Children should be having fun during their childhood, but school limits this. In his poem “The Schoolboy”, William Blake uses analogies to spread his opinion of children being restricted from having fun or growing healthily during school. In his six-stanza poem, he includes his message in three main analogies: the bird analogy, the blossom analogy, and the season analogy. In these analogies, he represents the schoolchildren as young, fragile creatures that could be free to grow but are being limited by school.
In the fourth stanza, Blake uses the bird analogy to show that school deprives a child of freedom and fun. In the first two lines, the poem reads, “How can the bird that is born for joy sit in a cage and sing?” We know that the bird is the student in this comparison, so the author is saying that the school is a cage for a child who is meant for freedom, which he is denied. A child should be having fun, but he is unable to sing in a cage, meaning that he cannot have fun in school. The next line says: “How can a child, when fears annoy,” meaning the child is afraid of school which annoys him. Then the stanza goes on to say, “But droop his tender wing and forget his youthful spring?” The speaker seems to suggest that the child must never give up or forget the joys of summer break, as “drooping his tender wing” is accepting the cage. It’s wrong to keep a bird in a cage, but a child is inevitably put in school.These analogies effectively prove Blake’s point that a child should not be sitting in a cage when he should be flying free.
In the fifth stanza, William Blake uses an analogy about blossoms to express his profound opinion on a child’s need to be free. The stanza starts off with: “O father and mother, if buds are nipped / And blossoms blown away;” we can assume that the buds and blossoms represent happiness. How can happiness and healthy growth bloom when the children are in school? The stanza then goes on to say: “And if the tender plants are stripped of their joy in the springing day.” We learn that the plants are the students being forbidden to blossom even though it is time for them to grow by having fun. This means although the children are having the most fun during summer, they are then parted with their joy when they are being placed back into school. This analogy is saying that children are being harvested before their time, and should be allowed to grow before they are stripped of their joy.
In the sixth stanza, William Blake uses seasons to represent contrasting times in a child’s life. The stanza reads: “How shall the summer arise in joy, / Or the summer fruits appear?” When it asks about the summer arising and the summer fruits appearing, it’s talking about the impossibility of us blossoming with school in the picture. It continues to say: “Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy, / Or bless the mellowing year, / When the blasts of winter appear?” This analogy is asking how are we to survive winter, which is depicted as the school in this part, without fully enjoying the summer, which is the freedom and joy we experience. William Blake wants children to enjoy their youth knowing that harder times are coming, and to have happiness is impossible with school.
In this poem, Blake represents young students and school through analogies of growing life being kept from having freedom. These analogies are the bird analogy, the blossom analogy, and the season analogy. According to his poem, children are prevented from growing well or having fun if they are in school. Children must be allowed to have fun if they are about to go through a hard time. This poem is specifically aimed towards parents, not teachers, because teachers should be focused on teaching, but it’s the parents that guide the children how to live a balanced lifestyle. However, this poem may no longer be relevant to modern children because the school system today has been altered and includes more fun and less rigidity. Nonetheless, Blake’s message still applies to most students because the majority of children dislike school, as it has always been.
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 skylark 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 learning’s bower,
Worn through 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 and mother, if buds are nipped,
And blossoms blown away;
And if the tender plants are stripped
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?