“Nurse’s Song” by William Blake (from Songs of Experience)


When the voices of children are heard on the green
And whisprings 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.

This poem corresponds to the poem of the same name from the Songs of Innocence (click here to read about that poem). As with the other poem, this one also is set at a transitional period between day to night, symbolizing the transition from childhood to adulthood. But we also see a transition out of spring and accompanying that the idea of winter coming. This symbolic transition conjures a sense of impending death, that the first stages of the cycle has come to a close and the cycles of maturity and death are beginning.

The nurse, who is the voice in this poem, is clearly troubled as she watches over the children. Their play evokes memories of her past which cause her deep anguish.

The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,
My face turns green and pale.

I would assert that the nurse gave up her virginity out of wedlock and as a result, suffered for doing so. Possibly, she bore a child herself and had to give the child away to an orphanage or some such institution. As she watches the children and listens to them, she recalls her own innocence and how it led her to make a mistake that carried long-lasting consequences. She knows innately that at least some of the children she cares for will ultimately make the same mistakes she made.

As with so many of Blake’s poems from the Songs of Innocence and Experience, this poem is short but visceral. I know for me, I spent a lot of time looking back at my youth and punishing myself for choices I made, just as the nurse does. Thankfully, I reached a place of acceptance and even gratitude. If it were not for my mistakes, I would never have learned the lessons that brought me to the place I am today, which is a good place.


Filed under Literature

4 responses to ““Nurse’s Song” by William Blake (from Songs of Experience)

  1. Hi Jeff

    Wonderful poem and analysis here… I would say you are right when you held that Blake’s poem is short but visceral, judging per your previous words…
    I found fascinating the symbolism of the cycles linked to seasons (of year and man)… Great post!!!.

    Thanks for sharing, Aquileana 😀

    • Hi Aquileana! I hope you are doing well. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem and my analysis. Blake is one of my favorite poets. The symbolism associated with cycles has always fascinated me. At one point I considered getting an ourosboros tattoo, but I didn’t ;-p

      I hope you have a wonderful weekend! Cheers.

  2. I really liked this analysis. I have difficulty analyzing short poems because there is less to work with. Blake does a tremendous job packing so much in so few lines.

    • Thanks Grace. I’m really glad you liked it. And you are so right–it’s like a minimalist poem. But worth the effort to unlock it. Cheers!