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  • NYS Writers Institute

Poetry Friday: "The School Boy" by William Blake

"... to go to school in a summer morn, - O it drives all joy away!"


The first day of school brings all types of new feelings for the students at Arongen Elementary School on Sept. 7, 2016 Clifton Park, N.Y. (Skip Dickstein / Times Union archive)


We're in our second week of classes here at the University at Albany, and next week marks the beginning of the school year for students in kindergarten through high school.

Good luck, schoolboys and schoolgirls.

Good luck, teachers.


A hand illustrated version of "The School Boy" from Songs of Experience. (Library of Congress)
A hand illustrated version of "The School Boy" from Songs of Experience. (Library of Congress)

The School Boy

by William Blake


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: O what sweet company!


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


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


How can the bird that is born for joy Sit in a cage and sing? How can a child, when fears annoy, But droop his tender wing, 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, By sorrow and care’s dismay,-


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 blasts of winter appear?


Published in 1794 in Songs of Experience, a collection of 26 poems forming the second part of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience.