The School Boy - William Blake Summary & Analysis [Non-African Poetry]
Non-African Poetry: The School Boy - William Blake Summary, Setting, Author's Background, Themes, Subject Matter, Techniques and Style for JAMB, WAEC and NECO Literature Students Syllabus.
It is no longer news that the above selected poetry is among the selected texts for literature students in the WAEC, NECO and JAMB Syllabus.

Well we have decided to help students by providing some insights such as summary and poetic devices and analysis of the poem to aid them understand and prepare ahead of their examination.


William Blake was born on the 28th November 1757 at Soho, London. He was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. All through his lifetime, he was unrecognized but is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age.

"The Schoolboy" is a Romantic poem. The Romantic era was marked by a celebration of nature as the embodiment of perfection. Apart from Williams Blake, other notable Romantic poets include John keats, Percy B Shelley, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. English poets who have their writings categorized as Romantic poems unambiguously display their love for nature and peace that nature embodied.

In "The Schoolboy", nature becomes a means of facilitating healing at different levels of life. Romantic poets believed in the use of their imagination to explore literary creativity as a means of deifying nature. They subscribe to the idea that the only way to achieve satisfaction for the soul is to have a profound power of imagination and to also be radical and non-conformists, hence they are perceived to be irrational and daring as they aspire to do things differently. Romantic poets idolize nature and regard it as a great source of inspiration or muse.

Romanticists believe that the Industrial Revolution made the world artificial and sterile, making it lose its humanity and humaneness in the process. They found solace in escaping in the beautiful world of nature. Intensive formal education was one of the fallouts of the Industrial Revolution and as seen in the poem, Blake maintains that education takes away the individual's sense of fulfilment and quest for adventure. As a romantic poem, "The Schoolboy" celebrates and appreciates and condemns every form of human and societal restriction placed on it. It also critiques the destruction of childhood innocence as a result of the emphasis placed on the importance of classroom education.


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.
5 O what sweet company!

But to go to school in a summer mom,
O it drives all joy away!
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day
10 In sighing and dismay.

Ah then at times I dropping sit,
And spend many an anxious hour;
Nor in my book can I take delight
Nor sit in learning's bower,
15 Worn through with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born joy,
Sit in a cage and sing?
How can a child, when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing,
20 And forget his youthful spring!

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,
25 By sorrow and care's dismay,

How shall the summer arise injoy,
Or the summer fruits appear?
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,
Or bless the mellowing year,

30 When the blasts of winter appear?


"The Schoolboy" was originally published in William Blake's songs of Innocence (1789). The poem is set in England. The mental picture created in the mind of the reader is of a little boy in a natural environment surrounded by beautiful trees, flowers and birds, which serve as sources of inspiration for the poetic persona. What dominates the poem is the idealization of nature, which was common at the time Blake wrote this poem. "The Schoolboy" deploys imagery from the natural world to deal with the restrictions placed on the unfettered spirit of childhood.


The title of the boy, "The Schoolboy", helps to foreground the focus of attention of the poet. The poem is the Lamentation of a young boy who is not happy with the restrictions placed on him, which has not allowed him to fraternize with nature as he would have loved.

The regimentation of this child's life by a host of parental and social rules and regulation leads to the child becoming sad as he longs for freedom to bask in the beauty of summer.

For the boy, nature is the only place where he can find emotional, physical and psychological fulfilment and happiness. He is not happy that he has not been allowed the freedom that is associated with nature. He is unhappy with his parents, who want him to go to school.

This ushers in one of the thematic preoccupations of the poet in the poem, which is the subjugation of the child. This also brings to the fore the conflict between the neoclassicists who believed and celebrated restraint and reason as important virtues that each individual must possess and the romanticists who were exponents of celebrating the beauty of nature and the importance of staying intimate with or appreciating nature.

The poetic persona laments that classroom education stifles creativity and offers nojoy, the teachers are hostile and the environment is not encouraging at all. The poetic persona posits that traditional education cripples freedom. He sees education as bondage and this is why he asks in Stanza 4 why a bird that should be from all restrictions sits in a cage and sings?

Stanza One

Lines 1 - 5: In the first stanza of the poem, the render is made to understand that the poetic persona is a young boy who is happy when he wakes up to see the dawn of a new and delightful summer morning. Summer, for the Romanticists, was the season of beauty and unparalleled bliss and joy. The boy is amused by the chirping of the birds announcing a new dawn, he is also fascinated by the melodious sounds coming from the hunter's horn, sounding from a distant field and the mellow tunes from the skylark bird. All these experiences from the natural world attract the boy to the extent that he exclaims "Oh what sweet company!" (Line 5).

Stanza Two

Lines 6 - 10: In the second stanza, we discover that the yearnings and aspirations of the boy to frolic and enjoy himself within the ambits of a natural environment of the child is frustrated by constraints of having to go to school under the watchful eyes of a "cruel eye" (I. 8), who is very likely a teacher. It is obvious that the innocent quest and desires of the children are in conflict with that of the older people - parents and teachers. Thus, the children, "the little ones spend the day/In sighing and dismay" (I. 9 - 10).

As evident in this stanza, the children are not happy. The feeling that they have is that they are in bondage, in a form of shackles, from which they cannot be free instead of enjoying the pleasures of summer, the child has to compulsorily attend the school where he merely spends his day in boredom and sadness.

Stanza Three:

Lines 11 — 15: The third stanza of the poem shows that he is distressed and weary as a result of his predicament. As he sits in the classroom, his mind is elsewhere, with the beautiful elements of summer. The boy does not derive any pleasure from the classroom setting, which seems to be an embodiment of physical and mental enslavement and oppression. He is not delighted by the books that he is compelled to read and he is "Worn thro" with the dreary shower" (L15) coming from the teacher. Within the context of this poem, education becomes a tool used to inflict maximum pain on the poet persona and other children like him.

Stanza Four:

Lines 16 - 20: The child likens himself to a caged bird. This sense of imprisonment is vivid and pungent. From this "imprisoned" state, he is not happy as he is not able to express himself freely and therefore he is not emotionally fulfilled. The impression created in the stanza is that the boy has been severed from the fountain of happiness and joy, nature. Thus, the Lamentation in stanza 4 is palpable. The poetic persona realizes that there is no way that he can operate optimally in the class room's stifling environment, unlike within the ambits of nature, which he refers to as "his youthful spring" (I. 20).

Stanza Five:

The boy, in search of a practical solution to his predicament, makes an appeal to his parents. It is apparent in his Iamentation that he is of the view that if a promising child like him, is removed from the source of his happiness and joy, nature, he would not be able to flourish. The lines in this stanza are unique because of the deliberate use of elements of nature to describe the poet persona and foreground his message: "Oh! Father and mother if buds are nipped | And blossoms blown away | And if the tender plants are stripped | Of theirjoy in the springing day" (II. 21 — 24). In these lines, the boy and others alike are the buds and tender plants, which would be destroyed if they are severed from nature.

Stanza Six:

Lines 26 - 30: The last stanza of the poem continues and concludes the ideas presented in the previous stanza. It contains a lot of rhetorical questions and the argument of the poet persona is that there is no way he can be fruitful or even flourish if he does not have access to nature, especially its regenerative and reinvigorating essence'. "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 blast of winter appear? (I. 25 - 30). The idea that the poet - speaker is conveying to his reader is that if childhood pleasures and joys are censored and truncated, as a result of the imposition of a regimented lifestyle that is integral to education, adult life will be utterly dry and unproductive. Nature in this poem, becomes the source of life, of regeneration, of vitality and virility.


1. A quest for fulfillment in nature
2. The beauty and splendor of nature
3. Children should be given the opportunity to chart their destiny
4. Formal education in a classroom is a form of imprisonment
5. Loss of the euphoria of childhood
6. Education acquired in a natural setting is more fulfilling than formal education in a classroom.


1. Alliteration
2. Inversion
3. Apostrophe
4. Dramatic monologue
5. Rhetorical Question
6. Anaphora
7. Consonance
8. Personification
9. Metaphor