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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nurse’s Song

(Prairie Children Building a Snow Fort by William
Kurelek, 1927-1977, Canadian artist and writer)

William Blake wrote two poems with identical titles and opening lines but with very opposite moods.

In the poem below, from
Songs of Innocence, the nurse or nanny is happy and cheerful and kind towards the children. In Blake’s other version, from Songs of Experience, she is not.

The differences between the two volumes reflect, Blake suggests, how the struggle between good and evil in life can transform innocence to experience.


When the voices of children are heard on the green,
And laughing is heard on the hill,
My heart is at rest within my breast,
And everything else is still.

“Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Come, come leave off play, and let us away
Till the morning appears in the skies.”

“No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
And we cannot go to sleep;
Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
And the hills are all cover'd with sheep.”

“Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,
And then go home to bed.”
The little ones leaped, and shouted, and laughed
And all the hills echoed.

~ William Blake, 1757-1827, English poet, painter, engraver, and mystic visionary

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