Revision:Blake - the schoolboy

The Schoolboy

  • Blake's critique of education, in particular its rigid and oppressive structure
  • ties in with the writings of Rousseau (societal structure destroys individuality, represses true desires, children should develop through their own experiences not through the words of adults, nature as central to human existence etc)
  • "I love to rise in a summer morn" - for the titular school boy, nature is associated with love, and in turn happiness and contentment. The boy is most content when at one with nature. This ties in with Blake's views on pastoralism.
  • The school, as Blake's construct, exists in direct contrast to the "summer morn", it is seen as stifling, destroying individuality and promoting conformity. Also it does not perform its function, that is to educate
  • "under a cruel eye outworn", the teacher is an authoritative figure, and one of experience.
  • "Nor in my book can I take delight", the child derives no pleasure from the educational texts, not only does this represent Blake's criticism of education but also the very nature of literature and writing. In putting ideas down on the page they become defiled, this is seen in a number of his other poems ('Introduction' in particular)
  • "Nor sit in learning's bower", a bower is a shelter made of plant life. In Blake's view nature should be a force to educate
  • "How can the bird that is born for joy, sit in a cage and sing?", the schoolboy is the bird, the cage is school. The imagery is quite clear, the child is born free yet constrained by school.
  • the poem ends with Blake's final indictment of universal education. He states that if we do not appreciate nature to its fullest, then ultimately we will destroy it. Education prevents children from growing up with nature, from learning from it and in turn destroys any innate appreciation for it.


These notes are aimed at A Level English Literature students at A2 level.

Originally written by cappucino07 on TSR Forums.