Compare and contrast the two nurses in “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience”?

The nurse in Songs of Innocence is compassionate and shares in the joy of the children that she oversees. By contrast, the nurse in Songs of Experience is bitter and rude.  

William Blake (1757-1827) wrote two poems entitled “The Nurse’s Song.” The first was published in his 1789 collection of poetry entitled Songs of Innocence, and the second was published in his 1794 collection Songs of Experience. In each poem, the narrator is the nurse. 

In the 1789 poem, the nurse is presented as loving and joyful. For example, she says that her heart is “at rest” when she hears the children laughing, suggesting that she derives both contentment and joy from the knowledge that the children are happy. The nurse also succumbs to the allow of the children and lets them play a little longer, “till the light fades away”. This suggests that she loves them too much to deny them even one moment of happiness. 

In the 1794 poem, the nurse is presented as rude and cynical. When she hears the children playing, she does not react with joy but with envy. When she hears the children play, she is reminded of her own youth, and her “face turns green and pale” with envy. The relation here is that the nurse is envious because the children have what she once had and has since lost.  

The children have youth, innocence, and joy. She no longer has any of these qualities, and she seems to resent that the children do. The nurse in this second poem also tells the children that their youth is wasted on them and that their youth, symbolized by “spring,” is merely the precursor to their old age, symbolized by “winter.” For her envy, the nurse in this second poem is made resentful and bitter. 

Setu Rani
Setu Rani
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