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HSC English 1st Paper - The SchoolBoy by William Blake Summary and Notes

The summary: 
This poem expresses the feeling of a young boy who loves to be free, feel the nature and joy of the life. It also focuses in the negative sides of our education system that seems to bound a boy within a limit and lots of 'dos and don'ts'. 

The speaker of this poem is a young boy who rises early in the summer and loves to hear the songs of bird and sweet horn of huntsmen. He feels it annoying to go to school in such a beautiful weather. But he is constrained to go to school. He finds no delight either in study or class because he wants to play outside and witness the beautiful weather. He feels like a trapped songbird in a cage. He complains to his parents that how children can grow and thrive if they are not allowed to enjoy the nature.

The Schoolboy 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 dayIn 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.

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?


It is told from the perspective of a young boy going to school on a summer day. The boy loves summer mornings, but to have to go to school when the weather is so nice is a misery to him. He sits at his desk in boredom and cannot pay one iota of attention to the lesson, so desperately does he wish to be playing outside. 

In the fourth verse, the speaker asks, “How can the bird that is born for joy / Sit in a cage and sing?” Here the poet is comparing young children, so full of energy and happiness, to songbirds, who deserve to tumble free and soar on the winds. But, like songbirds trapped in a cage, children trapped in a classroom cannot express themselves, cannot capitalize on all that excess energy, and therefore their potential is being wasted.

The speaker addresses parents in the final two verses, asking how, “…if buds are nipped / …and if the tender plants are stripped / of their joy...How shall…the summer fruits appear?” That is, if children are stripped of their ability to play and have fun in the summer season, how shall they grow and develop to the fullest extent? This poem is about allowing children to be children – to run and play outside, to experience the benefits of nature and of the seasons. This practice is equally as beneficial to them as academic learning, and in times such as those in the poem, arguably more so, for on this beautiful summer day the speaker can pay no attention to his lessons – he would rather be outside.


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