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 anxious hour;
Nor in my books 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?
POETIC DEVICES IN ” THE SCHOOL BOY ” BY WILLIAM BRAKE
A) A Child’s Perspective?
The content of this poem seems to be from the standpoint of an innocent child. However the diction and style are quite sophisticated. The speaker uses expressions one might expect in eighteenth century poetry, for example, ‘The distant huntsman winds, his horn’ and learning’s bower’. The poem also uses rhetorical devices such as
- Extended rhetorical questions
- Exclamation and apostrophe
- Repeating a pattern three times.
The voice of the poem appears much more than of the experienced adult speaker who sees and appreciate the child’s artless way of experiencing and of expressing himself.
Structure and versification: The five-line stanza rhyme ABABB. The first four stanzas are self-contained. Each presents a point in the speaker’s argument or an illustration of it. The fifth stanza differs, by running on to the final stanza. This seems to echo the content. Stanza five begins with the plant’s life in spring, which is carried over into summer, autumn (the mellowing year) and winter in the closing stanza. The repetition of the rhyme in the fifth lines creates an echoing effect which gives the verse a regretful tone.
B) Language and tones of the school boy
(i) This contrast with the unnatural character of the school. The oppressive nature of education is highlighted by emphasizing the vulnerability of the child and it associated metaphors of bird and plant.
(ii) The instinctive inclination of the child to learn is suggested by learning itself taking place in a ‘bower’ , a natural structure. This also suggests that children learn from nature, from their daily living.
(iii) The words associated with the effects of education are of negative emotion.
(iv) The child’s unfettered life is associated with words of energy and pleasure