Laughing Song - Imagery, symbolism and themes

Imagery and symbolism

Throughout the poem, aspects of the natural world are personified, as if they are capable of identifying with the emotions expressed by the children. This idea can be seen as demonstrating the ‘spirit of [Mother] Nature' or be an echo of the biblical idea that the creation is responsive (because imbued with the spirit of God) e.g. Isaiah 55:12; Psalms 19:1-2; Luke 19:40

Green – Repeated three times, Blake uses the term for its conventional associations of growth, fertility and spring. But the laughing ‘meadows … with lively green' also bring to mind the village green image he has Girl with Cherriesused in other poems, with its connotations of freedom and play.

Cherries – cherries have erotic overtones, in literature and art. They are associated with fertility but picked cherries also suggest loss of virginity. In medieval symbolism and literature, the cherry, because of its colour, was associated with human flesh and hence with mortality.

Come live and be merry – This echoes the invitation found in much pastoral poetry, to exchange the responsibilities of sophisticated life for a life of harmonious simplicity in nature. More on the pastoral invitation?

In literature, this is often associated with a rider that reminds the reader of death:

‘Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die.'

This idea arises from the Bible and also became associated with a phrase used by the Latin poet, Horace: 

‘carpe diem',

which translates as ‘seize the day'.

Both this idea and the cherries therefore suggest the existence of mortality and loss that is present but unacknowledged in this experience.

Investigating imagery and symbolism

  • Try replacing ‘cherries' with another fruit
    • How does this affect the poem?


The nature of innocence

Innocence is presented here as freedom from constraint and self-consciousness. The children are without self-awareness in their play and in their pleasure in their physicality. They are also full of trust in their world, both natural and human. The fragility of this state is also an aspect of this theme.

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