The School Boy 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?

Summary

The poem throws light on the mindset of a school boy. He is unhappy. He loves outdoor life. He hears the birds sing. The blowing of horn by the huntsmen pleases him. He wants to enjoy the company of the skylark. But he can find such joy only on a summer morning.

Instead of living like a free bird, the boy is made to go to school. It makes him sad. He hates going to school because of his cruel old teacher. There the small children spend the day from morning to evening and get disappointed.

Sometimes the boy sits for hours with his head hanging down but he is caged. He finds no joy in reading his book. The school is a cheerless place for him. He gets fed up with the shower of words from his teacher.

The boy compares himself to a bird who is born free to fly and enjoy life but he is caged. He cannot sing in a cage. The boy has the feeling of being a prisoner at school. He is all the time afraid of the teacher. As a caged bird he lets his wings droop down and forgets to share the joy of spring.

The poet calls upon the parents not to be so harsh or cruel to the children. School going kids are as delicate as birds and flowers. They need fresh air and free movement to grow healthy and happy. Keeping them under excess cage will make them unhappy.

If a plant is denied air and is kept in dark, it won’t grow well and never bear fruit.

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