Summary of The Echoing Green


The poem The Echoing Green by William Blake is written in the appreciation of nature in simple terms. However, if we go deep into it, we will find the theme of life and death in the poem. The poem is told by a young child who is playing in the “Echoing Green” park. The poem has been divided into three stanzas which if we go deep, depict the three stages of life. Each stanza is divided into 10 lines and the rhyme scheme is AABB. Another interesting thing worth noticing is that the first two stanzas end in “On The Echoing Green” while the final stanza ends in “On the darkening Green”. We will discuss this in the end.

The sun rises on a greenfield where birds sing and children play. As they play, “Old John with white hair” and other elderly observers laugh at their antics and remember a time when they were young, energetic, and playful. Eventually, the little ones grow tired and the sun begins to set. The children gather back to their mothers and prepare for a night’s rest.

The Echoing Green

Analysis of The Echoing Green

William Blake’s poem The Echoing Green is a poem attribute towards the life of a person and his different stages of life like birth, life and finally death. It basically depicts how everything in the world begins with cheerful, whether it’s the day or the life of a person. The poem also shows a contrast between the innocence in the beginning and the experience that is gained with gained. It shows the various phases of a person’s life from childhood to old age.

The merry ringing of bells and singing and chirping of the birds represents the joys of childhood and young age when one possesses a lot of energy. After that the old age approach which makes you weary and tired and when old you reminisce about the golden days of youth and its joys. At this age, there is a little bit of sadness about everything coming to a near end.

The poem describes the happy sounds and images that accompany children playing outside. The poet describes a grassy park on a warm day in late spring in this poem. The sun’s golden rays are illuminating the earth. Everything sparkles with life. The sky is clear and bright. The cheerful sound of the church bells is accompanied by happy songbirds such as skylarks and thrushes. With their sweet notes, they greet the arrival of spring. Then, an elderly man recalls fondly his own childhood memories of playing with his friends. Old John and other elderly people are sitting beneath the oak tree. They are watching the sports of young boys and girls. They’re all laughing and trying to forget their problems. They recall their own childhood and say that they, too, enjoyed their games on the green field.

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The last stanza ends with the day coming to an end, the children going to sleep, and the sun setting on the greens; this poem can also be interpreted as the life cycle. It begins with the birth of the little children in the spring and progresses to middle age with the older people and the middle of the day. The final stanza then transitions it into the final section of life death. As the sun sets, the green can be interpreted as life finally coming to an end.

Comprehension Questions

1. Answer the following questions :

A . What time of day is it at the beginning of the poem?

Answer – It is dawn when the poem begins.

B. Which words from the first stanza create a cheerful mood?

Answer – happy, merry

C. In the second stanza, what are the older people doing? And what does it make them remember?

Answer – In the second stanza, the older people sit and watch the children play and they laugh away their cares. It reminds them of their youth when they enjoyed themselves at the ‘Echoing Green.’

D. In the final stanza, what time of day it is?

Answer – It is dusk when the poem ends.

E. In the final stanza, what happens to the children?

Answer – By the time the poem ends, the children are extremely tired and ready to go home to bed.

F. In the final stanza, the poet creates an interesting image by comparing the mother and her children to a type of animal. What animals are they compared to? What are they doing? What is the effect of using this comparison?

Answer – In the last paragraph, the poet compares a mother and her child to a bird and its young one. Just as young birds want to return to their nests at the end of a tiring day, children also want to return home to their beds and their parents.

More Questions and Answers

1. What arises at the beginning of the poem and descends at the end?

A. the sun
B. a bell
C. a bird
D. an oak tree

2. What is the setting of this poem?

A. the nest of a bird

B. a bush where birds live

C. the echoing Green

D. the home of Old John

3. Reread the second stanza of the poem:

Old John, with white hair,

Does laugh away care,

Sitting under the oak, Among the old folk.

They laugh at our play,

And soon they all say,

“Such, such were the joys

When we all–girls and boys–

In our youth-time were seen

On the echoing Green.”

What can you infer from this stanza about Old John?

A. Old John spends most of his time worrying.

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B. Old John used to play on the echoing Green.

C. Old John likes being an old man more than he liked being a boy.

D. Old John does not get along well with the other old folk.

4. Who or what are “the little ones” in line 21?

A. young birds

B. boys and girls

C. mothers

D. old folk

5. What is the theme of this poem?

A. the disappointments of old age

B. the importance of hard work

C. the power of dreams

D. the joy of playing outdoors

6. What is the effect of using personification in lines 2 and 4?

A. Personification suggests that nature can be dangerous.

B. Personification contrasts birds with human beings.

C. Personification explains the difference between skylarks and thrushes.

D. Personification creates a mood of happiness.

7. Whom does “our” refer to in line 15?

A. the old folks sitting together under an oak tree

B. the people who ring merry bells to welcome the spring

C. the boys and girls playing on the echoing Green

D. the mothers around whose laps many sisters and brothers gather

8. What “shall be seen” on the echoing Green?

Answer: “Sports” or “our sports” shall be seen on the echoing Green.

9. Define the word “sports” as it is used in the poem. Support your definition with evidence from the text.

Answers may vary but should be supported by the poem. For example, students may respond that the word “sports” in the poem means outdoor play. In the first stanza, the speaker states that “our sports shall be seen on the echoing Green.” In the second stanza, readers learn more about what is happening on the Green-girls and boys are at play.

10. What is the echoing Green? Be sure to explain what the echoing Green actually is, not what takes place there. Support your answer with evidence from the poem.

Answer: The echoing Green is an outdoor area in nature, probably a grassy field. Clues include the mention of an “oak” (line 13), various descriptions of children playing on the Green, the effect of sunset on the green (line 30), and the word “Green” itself. The “echoing” quality of the Green probably comes from the sounds of the children playing, the singing birds, and/or the ringing bells.

G. Make a list of the animals mentioned in the poem.

Answer – skylark; thrush; birds

H. Make a list of sounds mentioned in the poem. Which stanza doesn’t have any sounds mentioned in it?

Answer – bells ring; sing louder; bells’ cheerful sound; laugh away

The last paragraph does not have any sounds.

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I. What do you notice about the last line of each stanza? Say how they are similar and how they are different.

Answer – The last line of each stanza refers to the Echoing Green and so they are similar. They are different as they refer to varying time points in one’s life from youth to old age.

J. How does the difference in the last lines affect the mood of the end of the poem?

Answer – The difference in the last lines makes the mood of the poem sombre at the end. When the poem begins there is a note of hope and opening while the last lines lead to a sense of closure and an ending.

2. What is the rhyme scheme of the poem?

Answer – The rhyme scheme of the poem is aa bb cc dd…

Working with words

Exercise 2. and 3.

dawdle — to take a long time to do something or go somewhere
hobble — to walk with difficulty, especially because one’s feet or legs hurt
limp — lacking strength or energy
march — to walk with stiff regular steps like a soldier
pace — the speed at which somebody or something walks, runs or moves
plod — to walk slowly and laboriously with heavy steps
ramble — to walk for pleasure across the countryside
roam — to walk or travel around an area without purpose
shuffle — to walk slowly without lifting one’s feet completely off the ground

slouch — to stand, sit or move droopingly and lazily, often with shoulders and head bent forward
stride — to walk with long steps
stroll — to walk somewhere in a leisurely way
strut — to walk in a proud way to show that one thinks one is important
toddle — to walk like a small child with short, tottering steps

trudge — to walk laboriously and wearily because one is tired or carrying something heavy
waddle – to walk with short steps, swinging from side to side

Punctuation

4. Rewrite the following sentences putting in commas.

a. In his shop he sells nuts, bolts, screws, pins and paper.

b. During the holidays he visited his brother, his uncle, his father’s friend, his grandfather and his grandmother.

c. The leaf floated along in the current, whirled round and round, twisted over, stopped for a brief moment, and then disappeared.

d. The bells on the tree, streamers of every colour hanging from the ceiling, balloons of all shapes, a large star, and millions of sparkling lights, completed the decoration in the hall.

Learning about Language

Suffixes

1. Add the suffixes –ing and –ed to the following verbs.

laughing/laughed
stopping/stopped
hitting
boxing/boxed
catching thinking

fixing/ fixed
running
planning/planned
boiling/boiled
flattening / flattened
posting/posted
flipping/flipped
shipping/shipped
joining/joined
sitting
paying
chatting/chatted
placing/placed
trapping/trapped

x