‘Spring’ by William Blake is a short lyric poem, first published in his collection Songs of Innocence (1789) and later in Songs of Innocence and Experience (1794). Similar to the other poems in the collection, the poem celebrates innocence through the vivid images associated with spring. Spring, being the period of new life and beginning symbolizes innocence added with the image of the child and the lamb.
Summary of Spring
In ‘Spring’, the poet gives reference to everything in communion with the season: the nightingale, little boy, the little girl, cock, and a stanza about the innocent lamb. The human world and the rest of nature are in harmony with ‘the sound of the flute,’ ‘the song of the nightingale,’ ‘the little girl,’ and ‘the little cockerel.’ All of these have been already talked about in other poems and he brings them here to celebrate innocence. The poem commemorates the coming of spring as a source of joy in which nature leaps into a new life, as the New Year begins. Finally, the image of the ‘crow’, and the ‘kiss’ of the lamp, seal the child with nature. Since the poem speaks of all the things positive and innocent, it is evident that the speaker is not aware of the underlying horror of changing seasons.
Form and Structure of Spring
“Spring” is a lyric poem. The speaker of the poem is a child, like many of the poems in “Songs of Innocence.” Since the speaker in the poem is a child, he/she describes the beauty of spring without thinking about the hard winter, neither of the past and in the future.
The twenty-seven lines in the poems are divided into three stanzas with nine lines in each. In the first stanza, the child welcomes the spring by breaking the silence. The speaker talks about the little innocent boy and girl and their innocent voices, in the second stanza. In the third stanza, he talks about the epitome of innocence – the lamb and desires to celebrate the spring with all the innocents. The last line is repeated in the stanzas to exemplify the joy the author has for this time of year.
The simple rhyme scheme and language of ‘Spring’ support this aspect of the poem which makes it more appealing. The rhyme scheme AABBCCDDE is uniformly followed all the stanzas.
Themes and Setting of Spring
The theme of a poem helps to understand the intention of the author in writing the poem. The prominent themes in the poem are childhood, innocence, and nature. The poem continues the pastoral theme, looking at harmony between nature and human beings. It reads like a child’s celebration of spring and new life. In ‘Spring’ Blake celebrates innocence as he welcomes the arrival of Spring. It further explores the harmony of man with the natural world.
As the title of the poem suggests, the setting is the spring season itself. The number of images used by the poet helps to understand the setting better.
Literary/ Poetic Devices used in Spring
‘Spring’ is a simple poem, yet, the poet has incorporated a number of literary/ poetic devices. The dominant one is his use of imagery that connects the poem with the other poems in the collection.
Imagery gives a visual impact to help the readers understand the poet’s purpose. In ‘spring’ the poet has used the images of “the flute”, “Day and Night”, “the little boy”, and “the Lamb”. These images have consolidates the images one finds in the poems of the collection: ‘Introduction,’ ‘Little Boy Lost,’ ‘Little Boy Found,’ ‘The Lamb,’ and several other poems.
The ‘Spring’ has a number of allusions that echoes a number of Blake’s other poems. ‘Playing a wind instrument’, ‘Day and night”, ‘Little girl,’ ‘Merry voices,’ ‘Infant noises’, ‘Licking a white neck,’ ‘Little lambs’ together make an appearance in celebrating life in springtime.
The refrain is usually a phrase, line, or group of lines repeated at intervals throughout a poem. Generally, it appears at the end of the stanza. Here in the poem, the line, “Merrily Merrily…welcome in the Year” repeated at the end of each stanza. It gives the poem a songlike quality as the speakers welcome in the new season of life.
The use of “Cock,” “Lamb,” and “Children” in the poem symbolizes innocence in the poem. Blake uses “the Lamb” as a natural image of gentleness and vulnerability. This automatically refers to Jesus, as one sees a natural association found in the poems of Blake. Also, the image of the child depicts innocence and gentleness, for Children are vulnerable, like lambs. In the context of spring, Blake points to the potential quality of the child being innocent, not self-conscious, or aware of shame.
Analysis of Spring
Sound the flute!
Now it’s mute!
Day and night,
In the dale,
Lark in sky,—
Merrily merrily, to welcome in the year.
In the first stanza, the speaker, the child, asks for the flute to be sounded for it is quiet and calm everywhere. As spring comes, life starts to bustle into action marking an end to winter’s silence. The birds in the poem are joyful through days and nights. It is evident that the spring season has come and brought with it happiness for all birds. While the nightingale is flying in the dale (valley) and the lark is back in the sky. All these birds have come happily to welcome the spring in the year. The first line, “Sound the flute” indicates the poet proclaiming the end of doomed, lifeless, and dead-like winter. Besides what that has been said, spring is full of sweet voices, melodies, chirping of birds, greenery, etc. Also, the bird’s arrival, Nightingale and Lark, alludes to the arrival of spring in the stanza.
Full of joy;
Sweet and small;
Cock does crow,
So do you;
Merrily, merrily, to welcome in the year.
In the second stanza, the speaker captures the joy of the little boy, the little girl, and the cock. The jubilance of the cock crowing in joy is followed by the poet’s hope for the people in the world to cry in joy. He says that when they hear the crowning cocks their joy finds no boundary. Through the auditory images, “merry voice” and “infant noise,” the poet depicts how he and the others are shouting in joy to welcome the spring in the year.
Here I am;
Come and lick
My white neck;
Let me pull
Your soft wool;
Let me kiss
Your soft face;
Merrily, merrily, to welcome in the year.
The third stanza speaks about the affinity between the child and the lamb. Both the child and lamb depicts the mutual coordination of innocence. The child invites the lambs to lick his/her white necks. The white here stands to symbolize the innocence of them both. In turn, the child offers to pull the wool, referring to shredding, to mark the beginning of spring. Moreover, the image of the child and lamb playing brings in all innocence here into the frame, enjoying and merry-making. The innocence and tenderness of the two are emphasized in the description ‘white neck’, ‘soft wool’, ‘soft face’. However, the stanza also underlines how child and lamb, being so tender, are vulnerable.
Spring, being the most favorite season for many poets, there is frequent reference to the season could found in the literature. Some of the beautiful poems of spring are:
- ‘Sonnet 98: From you have I been absent in the spring’ by William Shakespeare
- ‘Lines Written in Early Spring’ by William Wordsworth
- ‘Spring’ by Christina Rossetti
- ‘The Trees’ by Philip Larkin
- ‘Today’ by Billy Collins
- ‘The Thrush’ By Edward Thomas
The readers can also read the following poems to understand Blake’s way of depicting innocence: