The Ecchoing Green

ecchoingThe Sun does arise,
And make happy the skies.
The merry bells ring,
To welcome the Spring,
The sky-lark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around,
To the bells cheerful sound,
While our sports shall be seen
On the Ecchoing Green.

Old John with white hair
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk.
They laugh at our play,
And soon they all say,
Such, such were the joys,
When we all, girls & boys,
In our youth time were seen,
On the Ecchoing Green.

Till the little ones weary
No more can be merry
The sun does descend,
And our sports have an end:
Round the laps of their mothers,
Many sisters and brothers,
Like birds in their nest,
Are ready for rest:
And sport no more seen,
On the darkening Green.

Summary

Spring has come, signalled by birdsong and ringing bells, and children are playing on the village green. The old men and women enjoy watching the children and are reminded of their own childhood. Eventually the children tire, the sun goes down and the children are ready for rest.
The poem continues the pastoral theme already established in the Songs of Innocence, looking at harmony between nature and human beings, as well as harmony between young and old.
The poem follows the structure of a day and also traces the entire cycle of human life within a poetic landscape “which fuses the natural with the prophetic.”
The last stanza reverses the process of the first: instead of opening up of the day in a series of outbursts of energy, each triggering another, the day closes in. There is a gathering in, a coming home, a natural exhaustion. The children, like birds, are in harmony with the time of the day. In the final refrain they are absorbed into the rich mystery of things.

Speaker

A third person speaker, probably the poet.

Language and tone

ecchoing2The vocabulary is simple and repetitive, reflecting the simplicity both of the speaker and the scene. The emphasis is upon words signifying happiness – ‘happy’, ‘merry’, ‘cheerful’, ‘laugh’, ‘joys’, ‘sport’.

Note the pattern of echoes: sun, skies, bells, birds, spring, children’s games. The poem moves through a series of responses as is suggested by its title. It is a poem of circles: “ The sun rising triggers the happiness of the skies; the bells ring in response to the spring; the birds start up in answer to the bells, and the effect spreads in a widening ripple …” (Strauss). The children’s games aren’t just played but seen – another response. The echoing motif of the first stanza is taken up in the old people’s recollections, in the refrain and in the repeated monosyllables: bells, old, laugh, such, seen, sun, sports, birds. The poem’s alliteration and assonance add to its echoing effect.

Oppositions

The designs of the poem show the presence of potentially undermining forces. The adolescents in the picture might foreshadow the movement to experience.

The poem appears to be a simple celebration of:

    • The carefree life of the child and the value of play, from the perspective of the child
    • Harmony between generations; the old people rejoice in the play of the children

liGood parents; mothers are safe and welcome resting-places for the tired children.

There are hints, however, that this is not a complete view:

  • The old people’s memories remind us that childhood freedom does not last forever. The repetition of ‘Such, such’ has hints of lament that these days are gone
  • The closing phrase ‘the darkening Green’ seems to cast a shadow. Just as the day does not last, neither does this childhood innocence. ‘Darkening’ is an aspect of life also.

Structure and texture

The neatness of the closed rhyming couplets enhances the mood and tone of the simple completeness of the children’s experience. It suggests, too, the simplicity of a child’s speech. Using short lines means that the rhymes quickly follow one another, giving an audible sense of ‘echo’.
The lines consist of five or six syllables in the first two stanzas, lengthening to five, six or seven syllables in the last verse. There is a basic pattern of two stresses per line, with one stress on the end syllable. This creates a rising rhythm. and gives the poem a positive, jaunty feel.

Imagery and symbolism

Spring – Blake uses the image of spring because of its associations with growth and fertility. Spring is also the season for the birth of animals, for the appearance of flowers after winter, for birdsong. All of these represent the natural, new and uncorrupted and serve as symbols of innocence.
Play – Blake links the play of the children to the coming of spring to emphasise the relationship between the two. Children, in these poems, are fresh and untouched by experience; they share the freedom and naturalness of the birds. Play is also associated with youth. It reminds the elders of their own youth, but there is a sense that it does not survive the ending of the day / the ending of childhood.

The green

greenBlake develops his own symbols in these poems as well as using established ones. Here he introduces the image of ‘the green’, which will be used in various ways throughout the Songs is introduced. ‘Green’ has three, inter-linked, aspects:

  • The colour green is associated with growth, fertility and spring
  • Village greens were places of play and freedom. They represented the importance of play, and therefore of imagination, in human life
  • Village greens were not owned by anyone but were common land. They therefore represented another kind of freedom, freedom from the rule or demands of a landowner or authority figure. They were the opposite of ‘chartered’ towns which were under the authority of officials.

The oak – in stanza 2 with its sheltering branches is at the very centre of an all-encompassing community, extending the circle motif of the first stanza.

Themes

Communal harmony

The poem presents a picture of communal harmony, a mutual responsiveness among people. All age groups are present; there is a sense of renewal from generation to generation.

The nature of innocence
Innocence here is freedom from constraint and self-consciousness. The children are without self-awareness in their play, as instinctive in their behaviour as the birds. They are also full of trust in their world, both natural and human. The fragility of this state is also an aspect of this theme.

oakThe nature of authority
The old people here are like the shepherd in The Shepherd, in that they enjoy being with the children (lambs). They do not use the authority of age to repress the young ones’ imagination and instincts.

The power of the imagination
“Does laugh away care” – this line encapsulates one of the main theme of Songs of Innocence: unhappiness can be transformed by the imagination.