Saturday, 18 November 2017


Give an account of various forms of human cruelty on birds and the schoolboy as depicted in William Blake's "The Schoolboy" [NECO GCE NOV/DEC 2017]


“The Schoolboy” is a beautiful poem crafted by William Blake (1757-1827) to portray children’s perspective to formal education (i.e. classroom learning ). He tabled his thought through the voice of a certain schoolboy whose parents were so keen about the little boy’s acquisition of formal education, on the contrary, the little boy saw learning through nature (the things happening around) as the most suitable way of learning.

Blake even exaggerated the schoolboy’s outlook towards attending school_ pointing that the little boy likened the actions of his parents towards him to that of a bird kept in a cage. According to lines 21-30, the schoolboy also likened himself to things such as a shutting bud, a blossom flower, a summer season, etc; so as to justify that the action of his parents were rash.

There are so many themes in the poem “The Schoolboy” by William Blake; they are (i) freedom or freewill (ii) beauty of nature (iii) informal education is better than formal education (iv) parental control.

Looking at the poem from the angle of freedom, human cruelty to the schoolboy and the bird is made vivid. As long as a sheep cannot be wiser than its shepherd, it remains truth that the schoolboy is not wiser than his parents yet the limitations placed on the desires of the schoolboy hampered his freedom and thereby painted the parents as wicked or cruel.

According to lines 16-17, the use of a caged bird in the poem to symbolize imprisonment also depicted human as cruel. The schoolboy asked: “How can the bird that is born for joy/ Sit in a cage and sing?” the lines tend to expose that one of the most wicked acts of humans towards birds is to confine them in a cage.

Enunwa Chukwudinma Samuel aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)


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