'The Schoolboy' and this extract from Byron's epic Don Juan are concerned with the theme of learning. Blake regards formal schooling as confining and destructive to a child's nature, whereas Byron ridicules and shows the ineffectuality of strict puritan education.
'The Schoolboy' comprises six stanzas of five lines with a strict ABABB rhyme scheme. The rhythm is iambic, the natural speech pattern, loose tetrameter and trimeter, representing the child's struggle against the confinement of school. The schoolboy is the speaker of the first three stanzas, but the voice then changes to that of an adult appealing on behalf of the children. The entire poem is composed in the present tense which gives it a sense of immediacy.
Blake begins his poem by presenting the reader with a pastoral idyll. The child who rises 'in the summer morn' (1.1) and with whom 'the sky-lark sings' (1.4) is part of nature which provides such 'sweet company' (1.5).
This general bliss is also compounded with the use of positively charged words such as 'love' (1.1), 'sweet' (1.4) and the satisfied exclamation of 'Oh' (1.5). On reading the words aloud the mouth widens to form a smile.
The 'But' of the second stanza alerts the reader that this gentle happiness is to be broken. 'But to go to school in a summer morn' (2.1) echoes the opening line of the poem and in so doing draws attention to the differences between the two. The singing is now 'sighing' and this is reflected by the tone which becomes heavy and listless (2.5). The school itself is
personified as it 'drives all joy away' (2.2). Blake uses the word 'joy' on three occasions: here and again in the fourth and fifth stanzas. In each case the joy is equated with the natural state and is...