In "Nurse’s Song" from William Blake's Songs of Experience, the poet presents a reflective and poignant portrayal of the passage of time and the contrast between the joys of youth and the responsibilities of adulthood. The poem is delivered from the perspective of a nurse who watches children playing on the green and recalls her own youthful days. The nurse's emotions shift from nostalgia to a sense of concern as she sees the children wasting their time in play.
Nurse’s Song by William Blake
When voices of children are heard on the green,
And whisperings are in the dale,
The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,
My face turns green and pale.
Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Your spring and your day are wasted in play,
And your winter and night in disguise.
"Nurse’s Song" reflects the contrasting emotions of nostalgia and the realization of the passage of time. The poem captures the tension between the carefree nature of childhood and the responsibilities that come with maturity.
The opening lines evoke a serene scene of children playing on the green, surrounded by the whispers of nature. The nurse's response to this scene is marked by a mixture of nostalgia and melancholy. The phrase "The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind" indicates the nurse's reliving of her own youthful days, while the image of her face turning "green and pale" suggests a sense of longing and emotional intensity.
The nurse's address to the children carries a tone of both maternal concern and a sense of wisdom gained through experience. The sunset and the rising dew serve as symbolic markers of the passing of time, underscoring the fleeting nature of youth. The nurse's message to the children, urging them to come home and cease their play, is delivered with a blend of tenderness and admonition.
The lines "Your spring and your day are wasted in play, / And your winter and night in disguise" convey a sense of the potential consequences of squandering one's time. The word "wasted" implies that the nurse believes there's a greater purpose or value that the children should be pursuing beyond mere play.
"Nurse’s Song" captures the universal theme of the transition from childhood to adulthood, where the carefree spirit of youth gives way to the responsibilities and realities of life. The poem serves as a reminder to cherish the moments of innocence while recognizing the eventual shift in priorities.
Themes of the Poem
- Nostalgia and Passing of Time: The poem explores the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia for youth and the awareness of time's progression.
- Contrast between Youth and Adulthood: The contrast between the children's playful innocence and the nurse's mature perspective highlights the changing priorities and perspectives over time.
- Responsibility and Play: The poem touches on the tension between the enjoyment of play and the responsibilities that adulthood brings.
- Imagery: Vivid imagery, such as "voices of children" and "whisperings in the dale," evokes a sense of nature and nostalgia.
- Tone Shift: The tone of the poem shifts from nostalgic reflection to a more cautionary and instructive tone as the nurse addresses the children.
- Nostalgia: The nurse experiences a mix of nostalgia and longing for her own youthful days.
- Maternal Concern: The nurse's address to the children reflects a sense of maternal care and a desire to impart wisdom.
- Realization: The poem conveys the realization that the carefree days of youth are transient and that time passes quickly.
- Metaphorical Language: The poem uses metaphors such as "days of my youth rise fresh in my mind" to convey the emotional resonance of memories.
- Symbolism: The sunset and rising dew symbolize the passing of time and the transition from day to night.
- Rhythm and Rhyme: The poem's consistent rhythm and rhyming pattern contribute to its musical and contemplative quality.
- Alliteration: Alliteration in phrases like "voices of children" and "spring and your day" adds auditory impact to the lines.