“The School Boy” is a poem by William Blake, an English poet and artist. This poem reflects on the constraints of formal education and the loss of childhood innocence, as it explores the young speaker’s longing for a more natural and carefree existence. Read More 1st PUC English Summaries.
The School Boy Summary
The School Boy Summary in English
‘The School Boy’ is a typical example of Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience’ in its theme and imagery. It deals with childhood and the subjugation of its spirit and uses imagery from the natural world. Though it was first published in 1789 as one of the ‘Songs of Innocence’, Blake moved it to the ‘Experience’ section of the 1794 edition maybe because the speaker is writing in retrospection about the childhood experiences from the perspective of a child.
In the first stanza of the poem, the poet gives us a pastoral image of the innocence of nature. We see that it is a matter of utmost disappointment for the speaker to attend school on a sweet summer morning when actually he wishes to enjoy the mirth of summer. He is tired and even puzzled under the strict supervision of his teacher. The words ‘cruel eye outworn’ refers to the authoritarian eyes of the teacher that actually tire the boy. Instead of enjoying the pleasures of summer, the child has to compulsorily attend the school where he spends his. day in boredom and dismay.
Naturally, in such a set-up, the child experiences weariness. He sits drooping out in the sea of tediousness. The child resents the assault on him by the oppressive personality of the teacher and the unnecessary words of erudition the teacher gushes out without attempting to understand either the child’s intention or his urge for unchecked freedom. The learning’s bower refers to a garden where the child can be taught in an interesting way, only if nature accompanies him instead of the school teacher.
A bird which is born cheerful and jovial can never sing sweet songs if caged. Similarly, a child, if restrained under the umbrella of annoying fear, tension and the scepticism of his teacher, can never enjoy the natural instincts of joy and playfulness. A world full of rigid course of discipline will ruthlessly take away the beautiful spring – the childhood days – of a person’s life.
Stanzas V and VI are appealed to the alternate authority of the parents to realise the predicament of the child and the dangers in this suppression of natural learning. The boy complains to the highest authority – father and mother – to argue that if misery withers the tender plants, the beautiful buds and the newborn buds, summer can never be joyful. In other words, the speaker shows that a budding child is picked and swept off in the early stage of life in an ocean of sorrow, where there is no one to care for. Its state is compared to damaged nature that can bear no fruit and have no harvest. If care and concern rule over the plants, flowers, birds, such a summer will be dry and will bear no fruit.
The child enquires with his parents as to how they can win back what grief has destroyed. If the plants are withered due to the canker of grief, no fruit will be there in the season of autumn – mellowing years of one’s life. This implies that if childhood pleasures and joys are censored and truncated, adult life runs the danger of being utterly dry and unproductive. The old age would be miserable.
All these concerns are expressed through rhetorical questions which have already been answered by the tone of the poem which gives a final note to the reader of the impossible condition of the schoolboy.
In conclusion, William Blake’s “The School Boy” offers a poignant commentary on the oppressive nature of formal education and its impact on the loss of childhood innocence. Through vivid imagery and emotional depth, the poem highlights the desire for a return to the simplicity and joy of youth.