In looking at the poems Nurse’s Song 1 and Nurse’s Song 2, one has to look at the titles of the book in which they are in, the words themselves, and the etchings that go along with the poem. In the Nurse’s Song 1, the book that it is in is called Songs of Innocence. The title of the book shows to the reader that the narrator is writing from the point of view that she is watching children play, watching the innocence of the children in front of her. The second poem, Nurse’s Song 2, falls under the title Songs of Experience. In this poem, the narrator talks of the memories she has from her childhood.
In song one, the scenery is described in the very beginning of the poem. The narrator is sitting in a pasture, under a tree, in a valley, watching children playing. She sits in the shade of the branches as the children laugh and play holding hands. This can be seen not only in the verse, but also in the etching that the poem is written on. In the etching, the children playing a circle, looking much like they are playing the child’s game, “ring around the rosy”. The older woman, age is not mentioned in the poem, sits under the shade of a tree with what looks like cross stitching in her lap, or some sort of sewing. The children seem to be protected with a canopy of branched and the sun is setting in the back ground behind the large rolling green hills. The title of the poem itself is entwined with branches, green with being young. This sapling like title shows how young and inexperienced the children really are. The freshness of spring and young is throughout this entire etching.
The actual poem is very easy to read nothing in it seems to hide anything from the reader. It is very simplistic; much like a child’s thought process. The poem itself is simply about the care taker of the children telling them, at first, that it is time to stop playing, and then, after the children protest saying:
“No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
And we cannot go to sleep;
Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
And the hills are all covered with sheep” (lines 9-12).
The children want to stay outside and play because they are not tired, and they see all the other young animals playing as well.
The poems ends with a comparison of the children to the animals:
“The little ones leaped, shouted, and laughed,
And all the hills echoed” (lines 15-16).
The sheep that they see act much like the children are acting. The sheep run, jump, and “baa” (or shout) when excited. This could be what is “echoed” in line 16. Or, since the children are in a valley, the hills could be echoing their laughter back down into the valley.
The second song has a much different feel to it, both in it’s etching, and in it’s verse. The picture that the verse is written on it not a bright as the first song. The greens are much darker, and the only blue is in the background of the two children, and above the title of the poem. The picture itself consists of three people, what seems like a boy sitting in the background, alone and concentrating on some sort of work, a young girl with a mischievous look on her face, and an older woman combing the young girls hair. The three are in a sort of door, the boy leaning against the frame, while the others are out in the sun. The doorframe itself shows age to the reader. The white walls are covered with many long vines that climb the entire wall, and on the vines is full bunches of grapes, plump and ready to eat. The vines are a dark green, not like the young, sapling green in the first song. The title itself is free from vines and not at all being held down to the wall. this could mean that the experience of the nurse has set her free of all her childlike notions and thoughts.
The verse itself is much less juvenile than the first song. Instead of the narrator telling the children that it is okay to play longer, she is much more down trodden than the first song. She speaks of having the children come inside and not enjoy their playing. She seems almost jealous of them and their innocence. The first sentence describes the thoughts in her mind:
“When the voices are heard on the green,
And whispering are in the dale,
The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,
My face turns green and pale”(lines 1-4).
In thinking of her childhood she seems to be sickened by it. Two questions come to mind when reading this, is it because she feels she wasted it and it flew by too fast, or did she do something in her younger days to hurt someone. Both questions can be answered by the etching and the verse. Her thinking that she wasted her youth and be answered by the second sentence:
“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”(Lines 5-8).
Here she says that the children do not realize that with each passing day they grow older and closer to death. The words “winter” and “night” can explain this. In the winter, the snow comes, canvassing everything with a white shroud, killing vegetation. While the night has everything lay quietly down to sleep, much like in death and sleeping for eternity.
The etching can explain her possibly hurting something/one. The young girl in the picture seems to have a sinister look on her face. Her eyes stare off into the distance while her hair is being brushed by the older woman. She seems not to have the look of innocence that the children had in the first song.
In looking at both poems, they have two separate meanings from each other, but can be tied together by a the simple lesson of living. Song one is about being young and living freely as a child in the spring time. While the second song, by having the children come into the house and stop their foolish playing for they do not know what comes to them later in life, shows that the nurse is thinking of the aging process and wondering where her life has gone. The titles of the books in which the poems are in also give away this meaning to the poems. Nurse’s Song 1 from Songs of Innocence, innocence being youth and spring time, while Nurse’s Song 2 from Songs of Experience is linked to aging and death in winter.