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An Analysis of Blake's The School Boy

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An Analysis of Blake's The School Boy  


    'The School Boy' is a typical example of Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience in it's themes and imagery. Like many of the other poems in this work it deals with childhood and the subjugation of it's spirit and uses imagery from the natural world. While first published in 1789 as one of the Songs of Innocence there are strong reasons why Blake moved it to the Experience1 section of the 1794 edition. If we compare it to other poems in the collection it sits better with others in Experience than those in Innocence.

On first reading 'The School Boy' is the voice of a young boy complaining of being shut inside at his schoolwork instead of playing outside in the sun. When we look at the poem further we can see that the poet is returning to the theme of childhood subjugated and its natural joy destroyed that can be seen in other poems in the collection such as 'The Chimney Sweeper' in Experience with its comparison of the child who was 'happy on the heath' to now "Crying ''weep! 'weep!' in notes of woe!" .

The poem begins in Stanza I with the poet giving us a pastoral image of the innocence of nature reminiscent of that in 'The Introduction' from Innocence, some critics have pointed out the similarity of 'The distant huntsman winds his horn' in this poem with 'Piping down the valleys wild' in 'The Introduction' of Innocence2 . The poem gives us an image of rising with the company of many natural joys, not just the huntsman but 'birds sing on every tree' and 'the sky-lark sings with me.' It is in Stanza II that we see the oppression of the natural by authority typical of Experience and continued through the rest of the poem. This stanza compares the pastoral imagery...


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...glewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1966.

Hyland, Dominic, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Harlow: Longman York Press, 1982.

Notes To avoid confusion between the 1789 edition Songs of Innocence and the Songs of Innocence section of the 1794 combined edition I have shortened the section names to Innocence and Experience throughout and refer to the 1789 edition as Songs of Innocence and the 1794 edition Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience as the 1794 edition where it is necessary to draw a distinction. One example is found in D. Hyland, William Blake Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience (Harlow: Longman York Press, 1982), p. 48 William Blake, Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience, (London: Rupert Hart Davis, 1967) plate 53 . D. Hyland, William Blake Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience (Harlow: Longman York Press, 1982), p. 48

 

 

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