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Interpreting William Blake's Poem, Nurse's Song
'Nurse's Song' by William Blake are two poems with the same title, and which contain some of the same lines in both. The poems feature in Blake's collections 'Songs of Innocence' and 'Songs of Experience', and both poems have completely different meanings. The 'Nurse's Song' in 'Songs of Innocence' was written several years before the 'Nurse's Song' in 'Songs of 'Experience'.
The first verse paints a joyful picture of children at play. The nurse is relaxed about the children playing, and gains personal satisfaction from seeing the children happy. She remarks that her "heart is at rest within my breast".
When the sun goes down, the nurse wants the children to come home. The nurse's call in the second verse is answered by the children in the third verse, who say that it is still day, and that birds are still awake. Because it is still day, the children say that they will be unable to sleep.
In the fourth and final verse, the nurse reveals that she is compliant with the wishes of the children as she tells them: "Well, well, go and play till the light fades away, / And then go home to bed." This gives the impression that the nurse is so trusting that she will let the children themselves decide when they want to go to bed. A beautiful final line tells the reader how the hills echoed with the sounds of the children playing.
The later 'Nurse's Song' is a much more darker poem altogether. The grim reflections in this poem, by the nurse, may be through unhappy memories of being a nurse to children. Her youthful enthusiasm may have been dulled by bad experiences.
The first verse is all about the nurse's memories, that are provoked by children "on the green". In the last line of the first verse the nurse says how her "face turns green and pale", as she reveals that "The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind". The nurse may be mourning her own youth, and the children playing just reminds her of that.
Feelings become even darker in the second and last verse of the poem. The nurse doesn't enjoy seeing and hearing the children play at all, and in a depressing final two lines tells them: "Your spring and your day are wasted in play, / And your winter and night in disguise." There was a high mortality rate among children in the late 18th Century, when these two poems were published, and the "winter and night in disguise" could mean that she is describing death.
- Paul Rance/booksmusicfilmstv.com.
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