The School Boy by William Blake

Summary of The School Boy

The poem offers insight on the attitude of a school boy. He is unhappy. He enjoys outdoor living. 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 discover such bliss only on a summer morning. Instead of living like a free bird, the boy is made to attend to school. It makes him unhappy. He dislikes going to school because of his cruel old teacher. There the tiny children spend the day from morning to dusk and feel frustrated. Sometimes the youngster sits for hours with his head down down but he is confined. He gets no satisfaction in reading his book. The school is a cheerless place for him. He is irritated up with the downpour of words from his teacher.

The boy compares himself to a bird that is born free to fly and enjoy life, but is imprisoned and unable to sing in his cage. At school, the boy feels the sensation of being imprisoned. He is perpetually fearful of the teacher. As a confined bird, he allows his wings to droop and is oblivious to the joys of spring. The poet implores parents to refrain from being so harsh or unkind to their children. Children that attend school are as delicate as birds and flowers. They require fresh air and unrestricted exercise to develop into healthy, happy adults. Keeping them in an overcrowded cage will make them miserable. If a plant is deprived of oxygen and kept in the dark, it will not thrive and will never bear fruit.

Comprehension: I

1. Who, do you think, ‘I’ refers to in the poem?
Ans. I refer to the poet, William Blake in the poem.

2. ‘Sweet company’ refers to
Ans. Skylark, Huntsman’s horn and bird’s song.

3. What drives the boy’s joy away?
Ans. The very thought of going to school drives the boy’s joy away.

4. How do the little ones spend the day in school?
Ans. The little ones spend the day in the school by sighing (grief) and dismay (fear).

5. What does ‘cage’ stand for in the poem?
Ans. Cage stands for School, where the children are entrapped.

6. Pick the phrase from the following which does not refer to formal schooling.
Ans. Fruits are gathered.

7.  Relate the seasons mentioned under column A with the stages of life.

       1.  Spring -Childhood 

       2. Summer -Youth  

       3. Winter -Old age

Comprehension: II

1. What does the schoolboy love to do on a summer morn? What drives his joy away?
Answer:  The School Boy by William Blake is a typical extract from Blake’s Songs of Experience. Blake implies that the educational system of his day suffocates youth’s happy innocence. Blake is mostly self-taught and thus avoids the tedium of school as a child. This poem is more lighthearted and less severe than the majority of Blake’s other compositions.

The poet addresses the poem in the voice of a morning school youngster. He enjoys rising early in the summer mornings to listen to the birds chirping, the Huntsman’s horn, and the music of the skylark singing. However, his enjoyment is snuffed out when he finds he must attend school. The central theme is the boy’s sadness at the prospect of returning to school, although he wishes to enjoy the summer. In nature, the youngster experiences the freedom of being unobserved. He is obligated to enter a closed environment if he wishes to be completely outside in nature.

2. Describe the boy’s experience in the school.
Answer: The lyric ‘The School Boy’ is from the ‘Songs of Experience’. The child enjoys waking up early in the summer mornings to enjoy, but his happiness vanishes when he realises he needs to go to school. The central theme is the boy’s distress over the prospect of going to school. The boy yearns for the freedom of the outdoors and is unable to enjoy his reading. He is constrained to go through many nervous hours. The poem makes use of the picture of the bird. When birds are free, they sing joyfully; but, when caged, they cannot sing in the same way. Similarly, the boy feels imprisoned at school. The schoolboy and the caged bird are viewed as analogous not only on a natural level of bodily servitude but also on a spiritual level. Both are metaphors for the confinement and entrapment of imaginative vision. The image of the plant applies to both current and future schoolboys. As with a newborn child, the fragile and vulnerable nature of the young plant defines its eventual capacity to bear fruit. Just as food acquired in fall is important for living during the winter, joy experiences and imaginative freedom are necessary for a person’s potential to live well and overcome life’s unavoidable griefs.

3. According to the poet how does formal education curb a learner’s potential?
Answer:  The poem begins in a highly upbeat tone, but quickly shifts to a very dismal tone. The poet wants his audience to understand the distinction between the freedom of imagination provided by close touch with nature and the repression or slavery of the mind induced by so-called education. This poem is based on three interconnected images: the schoolboy, the bird, and the plant; all three are dependent on how they are treated by humans. The poet urges adults to see that children are like plants that must be cultivated and cared for. They must bear fruit in the future. School should be a place where youngsters are free to think. On the other hand, memorising things to study history, civics, literature, and other topics not only provide people with the tools they need to face life in a more global or better way, but they also sharpen the intellect and broaden points of view.

So, I do not believe the poet is arguing against education. However, he believes that schools should present kids with challenges, competition, and opportunities to develop their creativity. It should be a location where children may engage in practical play and grow in their own environment.

Comprehension: III

1. Formal schooling not only takes away the joy of childhood but also hinders the child’s growth forever. Explain.

Or

a. Do you think the poet is arguing against education? Discuss.

Answer: The poem begins optimistically but quickly shifts to a more dismal tone. The poet aspires for his audience to recognise the distinction between the imaginative freedom provided by close touch with nature and the repression or subjection of the mind brought about by so-called education. This poem is built around three interconnected images: the schoolboy, the bird, and the plant; all three are contingent on how humans treat them. The poet addresses the poem in the voice of a morning school youngster. According to the poet, the boy finds enjoyment in bird singing and observing the huntsman. Nature is a pleasant companion for him. However, after the boy understands he must attend school, he becomes apprehensive, and when he enters the school, he spends his time in annoyance and anxiety.

The central theme is the boy’s distress over the prospect of returning to school although he wishes to enjoy the summer. He is obligated to enter a closed environment if he wishes to be completely outside in nature. The boy yearns for the freedom of the outdoors and is unable to enjoy his reading. He is constrained to go through many nervous hours. The poem makes use of the picture of the bird. When birds are free, they sing joyfully; but, when caged, they cannot sing in the same way. Similarly, the boy feels imprisoned at school. The schoolboy and the caged bird are viewed as analogous not only on a natural level of bodily servitude but also on a spiritual level. Both are metaphors for the confinement and entrapment of imaginative vision. The image of the plant is applicable to both current and future schoolboys. As with a newborn child, the fragile and vulnerable nature of the young plant defines its eventual capacity to bear fruit. Just as food acquired in fall is important for living during the winter, joy experiences and imaginative freedom are necessary for a person’s potential to live well and overcome life’s unavoidable griefs.

The poet implores people to recognise that children, like plants, require nurturing and adequate care. They must bear fruit in the future. School should be a place where children are free to think and where their overall development is ensured. On the other hand, memorising facts to understand history, civics, and literature not only provides people with the tools they need to face life more globally or better but also sharpens the mind and broadens perspectives. As a result, I believe the poet is not advocating against education. However, he desires that schools will present pupils with challenges, opportunities for competitiveness, and ways to develop their creativity. It should be a location where children can engage in practical play and develop independently.


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