As we get older we look back upon our school days with fondness. It is common for parents to tell children to enjoy it as much as possible as they are the best days of our lives. The children may laugh at this when told, but when we get older and reach the age our parents were at when they gave us that piece of advice, we realize that they were in fact right and they were the best time of our life. This is only realized after having gone through life. Both these poems were written by adults looking back upon their childhood. The two poems we are looking at are The School Boy by William Blake and In Mrs Tilscher’s Class by Carol Ann Duffy. They both offer two very different points of view. I agree with one of the poems as it takes a very negative view of school but I am going to look at both these poems in detail and maybe by the end I will have changed my outlook on school life.
Back in the eighteen hundreds, when Blake’s poem was written, school was a lot harder then it is today. The school days were longer and the teachers were allowed to hit the pupils. Although these two major things have been changed over the years, the basic principles of school still apply. Blake starts of his poem very happily, talking about how nice it is ‘to rise in a summer morn/ when the birds sing on every tree/ the distant huntsman winds his horn/ and the sky-lark sings with me.’ This gives the reader the impression that it is going to be a happy poem but in the second verse that idea is done away with. The first line of the second verse says ‘But to go to school in a summer morn/ O! It drives all joy away.’ It sums up exactly how Blake and most other children, then and now, feel about school. ‘Under a cruel eye outworn’ describe how he thinks of the teacher. Although the majority of teachers are nice, there are a few teachers who match Blake’s description.
The third verse is about how he feels ‘anxious’ about the work that he is doing and can get no ‘delight’ from his book. The closing line of the verse is about it raining outside while the work is going on, making the class even less enjoyable then it already was. The phrase ‘I drooping sit’ show us that he is very bored because he is slouching in his chair like many of us do when we get bored and tired. The fourth stanza is about him likening himself and other school children to a bird that has been caught and put in a cage and expected to perform, even though it is probably very scared and upset at being put in this cage. It is the same for a child. They are ‘born for joy’, to be free to do as they please instead of being cooped up in a classroom for most of the day, expected to work and do well even though it is very saddening to them to be indoors and frightening to them as the way the teacher is described, they come across as being a very scary individual. The penultimate and final verses are a plea to his mother and father. They describe how if a plant is cut before it has finished growing properly then it will never be right.
The same could be said of a child. If they are stuffed into a room for half the day, working hard, instead of being out in the open air, experiencing the world like they should be, when they reach adulthood they will not know how to cope with the outside world and everything that is thrown at them. This is the idea that Blake is trying to get across to his parents, begging them not to send him to school, in case the same were to happen to him. This is the poem that I agree with because I feel the way that Blake has described the whole school experience, from the work itself to the getting up early in the morning, is correct.
It is very hard to get up on a lovely morning when all you want to do is lie on for a while or go out for a walk or run in the nice weather. It is also very hard to sit in a room for six hours a day, being watched by ‘a cruel eye outworn’ trying to work, when there are younger children outside playing or if it is really horrible weather outside. It is impossible not to get even a little disheartened by it all. I especially agree with the plea to his parents, although at school nowadays, you now have all sorts of different classes like Economics and Technology where you are taught to deal with different situations like you would learn in the real world.
Duffy on the other hand takes the complete opposite view to Blake. In Mrs Tilscher’s Class looks at a year in school and how the children enjoy growing up in the class, with all the different experience they have and all the things they learn. The first verse of the poem starts with how the teacher makes the class interesting for the children, which is a far contrast from the teacher in Blake’s poem. It mentions the names of two child killers but says how, because of Mrs Tilscher, the children do not think about anything like that. In just the first paragraph we can see how Blake’s and Duffy’s views are going to differ because of something as small as the teacher or the classroom in the whole school experience. The second paragraph is set after the holidays, once the children have grown up a bit. We can tell this because it talks about how the tadpoles have gotten older