One student’s thoughts on the two ‘Nurse’s Songs’ from Innocence and Experience

The Nurse’s Song –Innocence

When reading the poem ‘The Nurse’s Song’ aloud, it allows the audience to get a different perspective of the poem.  For example it may be the way a person reads the poem aloud; perhaps stressing certain words or the volume and tone they read it in.  By reading aloud each individual will have a different take on the poem and this allows discussions and opinions to become more interesting and fluent.

What interests me most about the poem is the relationship between the nurse and the children.  The nurse is portrayed as a kind, gentle and compassionate woman, almost seen as a mother like figure.  It seems that the children really look up to her and obey her rules and regulations.  The nurse takes pleasure in watching the children play, its as if their cheerfulness inspires her to be at peace.  She supports them rather than overshadowing their innocence.  In the poem we also see that the children are not threatened by her; if they ask for more play time she allows it.  There does not seem to be any evidence of alienation between the nurse and children which emphasizes the happiness and joy of the poem.

The Nurse’s song is about a group of children playing outside in the hill’s whilst the nurse watches over them like a mother would her child.  As twilight arrives she kindly orders them inside, however they ask to play until bedtime.  The nurse gives in to their pleas and the children are overjoyed.

This particular poem portrays the theme of innocence by using the four stanzas to express the happiness and freedom of childhood.  In the poem it mentions “And all the hills echoed”  meaning that the children’s happiness is rebounded around them- in other words it symbolizes that joy is carried and spread around the playground.  This ending quote sums up the poem nicely as it brings an content  atmosphere for the audience.  The poem is also rhymed with an ABCB pattern, allowing the poem to become much more interesting and fun to read.  This highlights the main theme of innocence and happiness throughout the poem as William Blake’s words and patterns make the audience happy too.

The Nurse’s Song- Experience

What interests me most about this poem is that it opposes ‘The Nurse’ Song- Innocence’.  I find this incredibly intriguing as it is as if the poem has been continued into the future.  It explains how growing up allows you to experience new activities and sights, which will in turn lead to the loss of childhood innocence.  This particular poem also juxtaposes with ‘The Nurse’s Song-Innocence’ as it is not as cheerful and joyful.  It allows the reader to recognise the harsh reality of society and how important childhood is to an individual.

This poem begins with the nurse hearing whispers from the children which suggest that they are partaking in secret activity which allows them to become experienced.  When hearing this, the nurse ‘turns green and pale’ and reflects upon the previous innocence of the children.  The nurse then realises that the children are becoming young adults and are aware of their own sexuality; in other words, they are growing up.

The rhyme scheme in this poem is not the childlike rhyming pattern used in the previous poem, this suggests that the nurse is upset and displeased that the children are growing up and losing their innocence.  The experienced ‘Nurse’s Poem’ is half the size of the innocence poem with only two stanzas instead of four.  This could represent the rapid growth of the children from the first to the second poem and allowing the audience to sense the nurse’s loss and disappointment she is feeling.

 

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Blake’s ‘Chimney Sweeper’ — the horror of child slave labour

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You can compare different versions of the poem here.

 

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue,
Could scarcely cry weep weep weep weep.
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.

Theres little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head
That curl’d like a lambs back, was shav’d, so I said,
Hush Tom never mind it, for when your head’s bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.

And so he was quiet, & that very night,
As Tom was a sleeping he had such a sight,
That thousands of sweepers Dick, Joe, Ned & Jack,
Were all of them lock’d up in coffins of black,

And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he open’d the coffins & set them all free.
Then down a green plain leaping laughing they run
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun.

Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind.
And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father & never want joy.

And so Tom awoke and we rose in the dark
And got with our bags & our brushes to work.
Tho’ the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm.
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

Questions to answer on the poem

What effects are created when the poem is read aloud or sung?

What interests you most about the poem? Why?

What questions might you ask about the poem?

What is the poem about?

What effects does the language create?

What is the effect of the poem’s structure and form?

What are the similarities and differences between other texts?

How do other people interpret this poem? Find sources/links…

What might make a good creative response to the poem?

How might you teach this poem?

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