William Blake's The Echoing Green Essay
William Blake's The Echoing Green
The poem ‘The Echoing Green’ is written by William Blake. It is taken from SONGS OF INNOCENCE. It is divine voice of childhood unchallenged by the test and doubts of later years. Blake expresses in simple and lovely diction the happiness and innocence of a child’s first thoughts about. This is a pictorial poem. ‘The Echoing Green’ is a poem about a grassy field on a warm morning in late spring. The poet gives a very beautiful description of a dawn and morning of spring. The spring represents the life. Morning is the beginning of life and the dark evening is the end. This poem is a blend of child like innocence and grayness of later years. It is symbolic and draws a contrast between youth and old age. Blake has expressed broad meaning of the playground. The children are carefree and they are not surrounded by any kind of worries because worries are associated with old age and pleasures with childhood. The children are busy in games.
They are showing vibrant attitude and display high energy in their games. They are laughing and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Their voices echo in the field. They travel on the wings of leisurely fancy and float far into the realm of calm and sweet childhood joy; unaware of the pains and cutting realization they are going to encounter as the years fall in on them.
The nature also seems to join in with their joy as the sun shines with sheer brilliance over the playing children. The azure sky also seems to be smiling at the joy of these innocent children. The whole atmosphere further seems drunk with high-spirited fervor; the church bells add their sonorous chimes to this festive atmosphere. The poet symbolizes the innocence and delicacy of children with the birds. The birds are happy and they sing their heart out. The mellifluous chirping and singing of these feathered friends represents the joys and blessings of our lives. The beautiful songbirds like the delicate thrush and the sweet sounding skylark create a marvelous fusion of their cute chirping with the sonorous bell chimes.
From this point the poem shows a subtle recession in the mood as the focus eases on to the old people sitting under the oak tree and draw a strange sort of pleasure from the games and the frivolous activities of the children. The old oak tree also symbolizes a rather enigmatic entity of existence- time. The old oak tree represents the all-pervasive time that draws a calming balance between the contrasting old age and the joyous childhood. The old people sitting under the cool shades of the old oak tree show a rather reflective attitude as...
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Analysing a poem - The Ecchoing Green
The following is a worked example of how a student might analyse one of Blake's Songs.
The Ecchoing Green
The sun does arise,
And make happy the skies.
The merry bells ring
To welcome the spring.
The skylark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around,
To the bells' cheerful sound,
While our sports shall be seen
On the echoing green.
Old John with white hair
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk.
They laugh at our play,
And soon they all say:
‘Such, such were the joys
When we all, girls and boys,
In our youth-time were seen
On the echoing green.'
Till the little ones weary
No more can be merry;
The sun does descend,
And our sports have an end.
Round the laps of their mother
Many sisters and brothers,
Like birds in their nest,
Are ready for rest;
And sport no more seen
On the darkening green.
1. Start with looking at whether this is a Song of Innocence or a Song of Experience
This will alert you to:
- Questions about the nature and possible limitations of the speaker and of his/her standpoint
- Matters of structure, versification and language.
In a Song of Innocence, the effect is often produced by adopting very limited diction and evoking a child's manner of speaking. In a Song of Experience, the speaker may appear to be a child, but will use many more rhetorical devices and will often echo contemporary poetic diction.
This is a Song of Innocence. The speaker is a child. Diction is limited and depends upon repetition. The speaker seems unaware of any negative associations in, ‘Such, such were the joys' and in the use of ‘darkening'.
- Do you think this speaker is a totally reliable guide to the meaning of this poem?
2. Read the poem and work out the literal sense as far as you can
See if you can then identify the images and allusions Blake is using and what they suggest and how they work together. Look back then at your literal account and decide how this connects with the imagery. This should then give you an idea of what Blake is trying to say and the effect he is trying to create.
Think about the imagery of: spring, birds, childhood and the green, and what they suggest about the meaning of this scene.
- There is harmony, the children are free and the old people have neither the desire to repress the children nor do they express any jealousy.
3. Now look more closely at the language
- Are there any words which are repeated – do they make any pattern?
- Are their groups of similar and/or contrasting words? Do these make any pattern?
- What emotional or pictorial effect do they produce?
- Does the meaning of any word change between one stanza and another?
- Are any rhetorical devices used – e.g.. repetition (especially in threes), rhetorical questions, irony?
- What effects do these produce?
Look at the repetition of words denoting happiness and those suggesting freedom.
- Are there any words or phrases suggesting any other feeling or reality?
Look at the effect of repeating ‘Such, such'.
- Do you hear any sadness here – a lament for what has passed?
- Does ‘darkening' suggest the shadow of death and change hanging over this scene?
4. Then look at the form
- What patterns have been created?
- What is the metre?
- Do the metre and rhythm reflect or contradict the content, tone or mood?
- What is the effect of this?
- How does the patterning created by the rhyme add to the impact of the poem?
Notice the neatness of the closed rhyming couplets
- What effect has this in enhancing the mood and tone of the simple completeness of the children's experience?
- Does it suggest the simplicity of a child's speech?
The lines are five or six syllables with a basic pattern of two stresses per line. Usually an iamb or anapaest is followed by an anapaestic foot, with a stress on the end syllable. This creates a rising rhythm and gives the poem a positive, jaunty rhythm.
- What effect does this have?
- Is it appropriate?
The repetition of ‘Such, such' creates a trochee which gives this line three stresses and causes the reader to linger. This may suggest an underlying lament, especially as the next line is also slowed down by the caesura ‘we all, girls…' in the next line.
- How does this affect your interpretation of the whole poem?
- Does it encourage you to see this poem as only concerned with ‘innocence', with harmony, freedom and fertility?
- Or does it link with the suggestions behind ‘Such, such,' and ‘darkening' to imply that the speaker does not see the intimations of death and change within the poem?
I have tried to concentrate here on the kind of questions you need to ask in analysing a poem, rather than on providing definite answers. It is more important that you can show that you know what questions to ask, and that you can give reasons from the text for your answers, than that you can reproduce a ready-packaged response.
The choice of words a poet makes; his vocabulary and any special features of it.
Related to rhetoric; eloquently-expressed, designed to persuade.
A passing reference to a text or historical fact.
A figure of speech where a question is apparently asked, but no answer is expected.
Where the surface appearance of something is shown to be not the case, but quite the opposite. Often done for moral or comic purpose. An ironic style is when the writer makes fun of naive or self-deceived characters.
The particular measurement in a line of poetry, determined by the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables (in some languages, the pattern of long and short syllables). It is the measured basis of rhythm.
The musical effect of the repetition of stresses or beats, and the speed or tempo at which these may be read.
The device, frequently used at the ends of lines in poetry, where words with the same sound are paired, sometimes for contrast ' for example, 'breath' and 'death'.
The smallest sound fragment of a word, consisting of one vowel sound, with attached consonants if any.
A word containing only one syllable; this may be contrasted with a polysyllabic word ' that is, a word containing several syllables.
Rhyme which occurs within a single line of verse, rather than between lines.
Rhyming couplets which are punctuated as self-contained units of sense. Often found in mock heroic verse.
The tone of voice in which anything is to be read in: e.g. lyrical, dramatic, contemplative.
Metrical feet made up of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (or one short syllable followed by one long syllable).
A metre in poetry, each foot consisting of two unstressed syllables, followed by a stressed syllable. A rising metre, like the iambic.
A group of syllables which constitute a metrical unit within a line of poetry. In English poetry this includes stressed and unstressed syllables.
A rhythm which is less heavily weighted at its start; an iambic or anapaestic metre.
A metric foot in a line of verse, consisting of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed. It is thus a falling metre.
A pause, often indicated in text by a comma or full stop, during a line of blank verse.