The Schoolboy Poem

858 Words 4 Pages
In William Blake 's Songs of Innocence and of Experience, he uses a simple style and language to compose his poems. While Blake utilizes this style to make his work more accessible to his audience, it is a brilliantly subversive technique to conceal a scathing critique of English institutions. By analyzing the language of Blake 's poem “The Schoolboy,” this paper will argue that Blake employs the voice of a child to critique the restrictive and damaging effects that a formal education has on youth in England. In opening stanza of “The Schoolboy,” the speaker is a boy who is blissfully free and content in the natural world. As the boy is in a temporal space of childhood, he does not yet realize that his existence in that space is fleeting …show more content…
This is reflected in the series of rhetorical questions that the schoolboy poses to the reader in the second half of the poem. With the schoolboy asking the reader how a “bird that is born for joy / Sit in a cage and sing” (16-17), Blake is able to liken the schoolboy’s experience in a “learning’s bower” (14) to that of the caged bird. As the bird is a symbol associated with nature, it functions not only as an analogy of the child but also of the child 's freedom. This is emphasized with Blake’s diction that function on the idea of school “drive[ing] all joy away” (7) in the child; therefore, stressing the notion that education, like the birdcage, is unnatural and damaging. This is significant because Blake suggests that the child “[is] stripped / Of their joy” (23-24) with a formal education and transformed into mindless, unimaginative drones incapable of expressing their innermost desires. Like a bird in a cage, the child’s experience of education is strikingly similar because Blake’s use of the word “bower” (14) possess multiple interpretations between the natural world acting as a barrier from the harshness of reality and the feeling of constraint inherent in a formal education. Although the “bower” (14) provides shelter in both interpretations, the schoolboy finds the “learning bower” (14) more oppressive than the natural one because he is no longer permitted to “sing” (4). With his ongoing education, the boy is deeply concerned about “how shall [he] gather” (28) the “summer fruits” (27) in the final stanza of the poem. Unknowingly, the schoolboy’s fear for the appearance of “the blasts of winter” (30) reveals his loss of innocence because he knows that the cycle of seasons, particularly winter, destroys a harvest, his means of subsistence, and indicates the progression of time and the eventuality of old age. Furthermore, Blake’s use of the word “mellowing”

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